Archive Tucson


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  • How do you determine who to interview?

It's a challenge. A lot of oral history projects are focused tightly on a specific event, movement, or small community in which all the major figures can be interviewed. Archive Tucson is very different because we are focused on creating a survey of Southern Arizona, which is enormous and immensely complicated. There are countless ways one could approach choosing interviewees from such a huge number of people--and each of those ways would leave out interesting people. We know that, ultimately, we cannot produce anything more than a rough, subjective sketch of Southern Arizona. Rather than pretending to be methodological about choosing interviewees, we look for people who, for various reasons, are underrepresented in our archive. In the distant future, once we have a general cross-section of Southern Arizonans in place, we hope to start recording small sub-collections about events, neighborhoods, and communities.

  • Can I suggest someone to interview?

Of course! We have a huge spreadsheet of names that we are building and we would like to add your favorite person. Tell us, in a couple of sentences, why you think they would be a good addition to Archive Tucson. Are they from a group that doesn't get its story told? Do they have a story that seems uniquely local? Were they a witness to or participant in any important or underappreciated events? We can't promise to interview everyone, but we're far more likely to do so if you can include a contact number or email.

  • Are the interviews edited?

Very lightly. We remove things like ringing cell phones, relatives wandering into the room, and bits of conversation totally unrelated to the interview. In rare cases we will make a structural edit to bring thematically similar or chronological material together. For instance: if an interviewee remembers details about a subject after recording we may record a those additional details on another occasion and splice them into the original interview. We are not purists, but we are close.

  • Will there ever be Archive Tucson transcripts?

We would love to offer transcripts but we do not currently have the resources to transcribe or pay for transcriptions. If you transcribe any of the interviews we would be grateful to share your transcripts on our site. Of course, if you want to be an angel donor and fund transcribing some or all of Archive Tucson, please drop us an email.

  • How do I use Archive Tucson oral histories?

You can quote and cite them with attribution to Special Collections at the University of Arizona Libraries/Arizona Board of Regents. If you would like to use the audio for a multimedia project please contact us.

  • Is there an interviewing methodology used by Archive Tucson?

Because this is a squishy humanities project, we are strong proponents of active interviewing. This yields a far more conversational interview than traditional oral histories with pre-scripted questions. We also think active interviewing is simply more honest about the subjectivity of the interviewer and their role in co-creating an oral history. Because Archive Tucson is interested in all facets of life in Southern Arizona, pre-scripted questions often prove too rigid to deal with the constant, unexpected stories that pop up in an oral history. We believe the best pre-scripted question is: "wait, I didn't know you did that! Can you tell me more?"

  • Who is actually working on this project?

Aengus Anderson is the Libraries' Oral Historian and Digital Media Producer. Steve Hussman is the Director of Special Collections. Kenya Johnson is the Head of Marketing and Communication for the University of Arizona Libraries.

  • What gear are you using?

We oscillate between a Sound Devices 702 with Audix SCX-One mics and a Sony PCM-D100 with AKG C1000 mics.

  • Are there other cool, local oral history collections I should explore?

Yes!  Many aren't digitized, but an exception is the Pima County Oral History Project. If you want to listen to real audio tapes in person, there's an incredible collection of oral histories at the Arizona Historical Society and here, at Special Collections, we have a lot of other recordings. If you've never visited an archive before, this is a perfect excuse.