The Informed Consent form, and other oral history release documents, are important best practice for narrators, interviewers, repository libraries and archives, and, of course, researchers requesting use of materials.  In the archive, recordings and transcripts appear to be the most requested.

Imagine a scenario by which future relatives or researchers hope to discover information about sound recordings, and no available reference point or finding aid help to discover content.  Retrieving information, in the future as today, remains dependent on the criteria present within the researcher’s work.

It is perfectly conceivable that born digital information not preserved properly, or presented by helpful finding aid, will be lost to the abysmal abyss of irrelevant keyword, search term, and non-user antiquated database.

To help prevent this: Document Your Work.

A general definition of informed consent in relation to oral history can be found by reading and repeating already established projects.  Seriously.  Read, or at least scan, this blogroll, and move-on to other sources of information that discuss clear, concise, and well-written consent documentation.  Spelling checks, grammar usage, simple design intended to be read — points between style, time management, and transparency; en total, a completed bureaucratic digital workflow that you’re promising to have time to fill-out, at least partially… These details can make or break project success.


My own Informed Consent Release Form connects narrators, interviewers, and sound recording archives to one another.  Notice its single page length.  This particular document bears no institutional logo or contact information, a short form to supplement (sometimes only temporarily) necessary information for project show runners, archival institutions, or museums.

Also useful, the Sound Memory Potential Narrator page helps make initial contact which might be otherwise overlooked.  This form works great when used to make connections through word of mouth, visitor center display literature, or future community events.

I highly recommend that staff have access to these forms in an easily shared PDF format (useful for email, blogs, and social media).

The bottom line about documentation: Create documents that can be easily understood, and informs narrators about their access, and shared authority, during the interview process.

Every interview, and especially potential oral history projects, should have at least one signed narrator informed consent form available.  Oral history release forms help interviewers and narrators create verified proof of informed consent.  At the same time, these documents promote best practice for future accessibility concerns of cataloged digital narrative recordings.

Las Cruces 2018
David Lee

David Lee

creates public history sound recordings, seeks reasonable workflow, and dreams of longterm digital preservation.

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