Stories and photographs enjoy a good relationship with one another and are interdependent. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it takes at least a few good words to provide a photo's context and meaning. On the other hand, we search quickly through a book's pages to see photos of the people and places described. Photo by Ned Rosen, courtesy of Ned & Aya Photography, New York.
The fours seasons are powerful memory and story prompts. We interviewers often hear a remembered event start like this: "It was in the spring of '67..." The beautiful grasses and flowers of spring stir the heart, evoking memories of love and feelings of longing, delicacy, strength, and hope.
Books & Lives personnel are trained to handle project materials carefully. Oil from human hands stains and degrades priceless documents, thus the white gloves. We store our clients' documents in acid-free boxes and file folders and handle materials appropriately at each stage of the preservation process.
United States Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Copies of some of the books created by Books & Lives are heading for the catalogues and stacks of the Library of Congress, which now has approximately 38 million books and other print materials in 470 different languages.
Our national library contains thousands of oral histories. Recently it acquired 9,000 hours of "video interviews with 2,600 black Americans who define the black experience in America." It collects and preserves veterans personal accounts of our nation's many wars and hundreds of other oral histories, including the famous slave narratives.The Kingston Trio Legacy Project, for which Books & Lives consulted, is housed at the Folk Ways Center of the Library of Congress.
Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, India contains vital records of the Tibetan people's language and experience prior to China's occupation of their homeland. Copies of recordings and transcripts produced by the Tibet Oral Project, for which Books & Lives served as a consultant, are carefully stored in the LTWA. The history of Tibet--a disappearing country and the earthly home of the Dalai Lamas--is priceless.
What's the difference between a memoir and an oral history? Memoirs (not as long or as detailed as autobiographies) are written. They rely heavily on the literary skills of the author to deliver a good story. Oral histories are spoken. They rely on an exchange between a well-informed narrator and well-informed interviewer to produce compelling testimony.
Oral history interviews can be rewritten to form the basis of a memoir. The resulting text is highly edited and utilizes various literary skills and devices to create a good, readable work.
Oral biographies are similar to topical oral histories, but the topic is a person. Truman Capote and Robert Kennedy, for example, have each been the subject of an oral biography, a life story told by others.
Books & Lives conducts interviews for oral biographies and accepts commissions for writing or ghostwriting memoirs.
Periodically, Books & Lives offers workshops in oral history theories, methods, and practices. Participants in former workshops, taught with Jeff Friedman, PhD, have included: faculty, graduate students, community leaders, writers, and history enthusiasts working on various projects. Next workshop: See workshop page this website.
Teaching oral history after twenty years of practice is deeply satisfying. It's a pleasure to share knowledge and to help design oral histories to meet graduate requirements or heighten awareness of community issues.
Consulting work can be accomplished via Skype or in person anywhere in the world. Planning, designing, archiving, researching, resolving ethical concerns, fundraising, or choosing technology ... we can help.
Books & Lives works effectively with many different types of clients to achieve project purposes and goals.
Oral history is both broad and deep. There are many reasons for conducting an oral history, many ways of going about it, and many final products. Some oral history projects are intended for archives where researchers and artists will make use of the primary source material. Other oral histories are destined to become family heirlooms, or books, films, or videos from the start.
Full-life oral histories are personal. They recount the life story of a person cherished by a family, company, or community. They may be broad and cover all years of a life, or cover specific aspects of a life in depth.
Topical oral histories are used to create a human record of major events such as 9/11, Katrina, the Iraq war, the demise of manufacturing-based cities, the Beatles in America, space exploration, and more.
Books & Lives produces oral histories for archives or publication, and for full-life or topical oral history projects.