Author Archives: arijxsyed


For the culmination of the semester our class spoke at a panel for a joint conference by OHMAR, or the Oral History Association of the Mid Atlantic Region, and the Society of History and the Federal Government. The conference included panels with historians from the FBI, CIA, House of Representatives, the Senate and numerous historians from museums  and universities.

The conference was an amazing experience.  It was enlightening to listen and talk to experts in the field. My favorite was one led by a former FBI Agent, who now works as an oral historian for the FBI. He spoke about the process and importance of oral history. My favorite part was the stories he told. All the panels were great. Our panel went great as well. It was so rewarding to present our work to experts in the field.

Preparing for the Interview Process.

Oral history, like any other discipline has strict guidelines and procedures. As a relative newcomer to oral history, I have more experience analyzing primary sources rather than actually taking part in the creation of those sources. Learning the craft has been a complex yet enlightening experience. A certain level of responsibility comes along with the task of documenting history. To ensure the validity of this documentation, it is important to follow standards that maintain credibility. Working with actual real people adds another level responsibility. When you relive events, especially traumatic events, you also relive how you felt at that time. This brings forth the question, how do you ethically deal with emotional people? Our task as oral historians is to most accurately capture an event in history through transcribing interviews with people who lived through the event. Strong emotional reactions however can change how someone may retell that event. This is why oral history standards are so important: to best create an environment of objectivity. To prepare for this I also took part in this project as an interviewee. Sitting on the other side of table I experienced what participants in this project will go through. It truly does bring out emotion. Our project especially has to focus on this as Hurricane Sandy victims have being through severe trauma. It has been a truly enlightening experience learning how to balance creating an accurate primary historical source, while at the same time doing justice to the stories of Sandy’s disaster victims.

-Arij H. Syed