University of Leicester eBulletin

Setting the Record Straight

March 2003
No 71

New Guide to Equipment for Oral History Recording Launched by the East Midlands Oral History Archive

Pictures are available on request. Ring Tristram on 0116 252 5065 for details

The University of Leicester-based East Midlands Oral History Archive has launched a new guide explaining what equipment people need to buy in order to conduct oral history interviews.

Documenting the memories of the older generation is becoming increasingly popular but many people may be using inferior equipment that will create recordings that are difficult to hear and understand when they are played back. The new on-line guide produced by the East Midlands Oral History Archive provides a simple way for people to navigate their way through the maze of technologies and produce high quality recordings every time.

Recording someone’s memories might seem simple enough. However, just placing a tape recorder in front of someone and pressing record is likely to produce poor quality recordings that are inaudible when they are played back in the future. Luckily the equipment required to make good quality recording is both affordable and easy to use as the new on-line guide ( from the East Midlands Oral History Archive shows.

“There are many ways to get good quality recordings of people talking about their lives,” explained Tristram Hooley of the East Midlands Oral History Archive. “But, as our on-line equipment guide explains there are some basic principles that you should observe. Always use an external microphone, try and use a format that other people are using such as tape or mini-disc and buy the best quality equipment that you can afford. If you are thinking about investing in some equipment you should definitely check out our website as it offers advice about all of the possible options.”

“At the East Midlands Oral History Archive we get a lot of questions about the right equipment to use. Sadly, we also get people playing recordings to us that are inaudible because they have been recorded on inappropriate equipment. Hopefully our new on-line equipment pages should answer people’s questions before they make these mistakes. If you’ve gone to the trouble of recording a relative, friend or community member talking about their live, make sure you also go to the trouble of ensuring that the recording is audible and durable.”

The archives website offers information on cassette recorders, mini-disc recorders, microphones, computers and other ways of recording oral testimony. It can be found at but information is available in printed form for people who do not have access to computers. Write to the East Midlands Oral History Archive at the address below to find out more. The equipment resources are part of the Archive’s on-line training resources for oral historians, which can be accessed from

The East Midlands Oral History Archive is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to establish the first large-scale archive of oral history recordings for Leicestershire & Rutland. This includes the collections of the former Leicester Oral History Archive, the Mantle archive from North West Leicestershire, the Community History archive of Leicester City Libraries, and the sound archive of BBC Radio Leicester, along with smaller collections donated by local organisations or individuals.

The recordings are deposited in the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland, and are currently being catalogued to make them more accessible. The project now has an online catalogue at, and has produced a CD of edited extracts from the recordings on the theme of toys and games. EMOHA also aims to generate new oral history recordings through its own programme of interviewing, and by providing advice, training and support for community groups, museums and heritage organisations, students and other individuals who are interested in developing their own projects.

EMOHA is a partnership between the Centre for Urban History at the University of Leicester, the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland (ROLLR), and Leicester City Museums and Library Services.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Further details are available from East Midlands Oral History Archive, Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester, LE1 7RH, telephone 0116 252 5065 email view

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Information supplied by: Barbara Whiteman
Last updated: March 2003
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