Donating Oral Histories

Oral History Policies

JMU Special Collections may collect the products of oral history projects that align with our collecting policies and meet the following conditions. Oral historians considering a project whose products they wish to donate to JMU Special Collections are urged to contact the collection stewards well in advance of such a project to ensure it will meet all criteria. Oral histories produced by JMU students must have been overseen by a faculty or staff member who acts as the legal donor of the oral histories to Special Collections.

Submission Package

Oral histories must be donated as a completed project consisting of:

  • interviewer- and narrator-completed copies of the JMU Collections oral history deed of gift;
  • finalized, narrator-approved transcripts;
  • video or audio recordings that may be made available for research immediately or at a predetermined future date, as determined in the deed of gift;
  • redacted transcripts and edited recordings that can be made available to researchers in cases where the narrator has requested that specific portions be restricted for a period of time;
  • a preferred pseudonym, if the narrator has requested the use of one;
  • a brief (50-200 word) biographical summary of each narrator and interviewer;
  • a description of the date and place of each oral history interview;
  • a 200-500 word project description; and
  • a completed oral history interview information form verifying the presence of all needed materials.

Donors of oral histories will be required to submit all of these products as a complete, finalized package; Special Collections cannot be responsible for obtaining release forms, temporarily storing digital files, redacting interviews, or managing unapproved transcripts. Oral history donors are urged to research best practices and ethical considerations for the creation and management of oral history projects prior to beginning a project.

JMU Special Collections prefers to receive documents and recordings in the format in which they were created – therefore, digital transcripts and recordings should be donated as digital files. Please contact Special Collections for information about our currently-preferred formats for digital files, or with any questions about this policy.

Conditions Governing Access

Because oral histories often discuss vulnerable information about a narrator, the narrator should be empowered to impose temporary restrictions on access to protect their own privacy or interests within the framework provided by JMU Special Collections’ oral history informed consent form and deed of gift.

A narrator may choose to use a pseudonym or otherwise anonymize their oral history interview. However, it is the responsibility of the oral history project coordinator to fulfill this obligation before transferring it to the archives.

JMU Special Collections will not perform redaction or anonymization work on the project’s behalf. JMU Special Collections will not accept oral histories that are closed permanently or indefinitely.

Third Parties

Like all archival materials, oral histories often discuss third parties. Narrators, interviewers and project coordinators should be sensitive to the interests of third parties and set conditions governing access to oral histories appropriately.