Quite simply, oral history is history that is shared by word of mouth– i.e., verbally. Oral histories can play a fascinating and colorful role in the documenting of history. Anecdotes, jokes, stories and other first-hand recollections by individuals can often help bring the dry facts and outlines of historical events to life like no other resource available to historians.
The best way to make an oral history is to conduct an interview with a subject, and record the conversation. Usually this is done either with an audio recorder, or by using a video camera. For tips on how to conduct your own oral history interviews, see our Oral History Interviewer's Handbook (29-page PDF file; About PDFs).
Since 1992, the Center for the History of Family Medicine (CHFM) has been actively collecting oral histories as part of our efforts to document and preserve the history of the specialty.
At present, the CHFM holds more than 150 oral histories in both audio and video formats. As part of our oral history project, we have also developed a list of subjects (8-page PDF file; About PDFs) throughout the seven Family Medicine organizations (AAFP, AAFP Foundation, ABFM, ADFM, AFMRD, NAPCRG and STFM) that we have targeted for interviews.
For more information on how you can help to preserve the history of Family Medicine through conducting oral histories, please contact the Center.
In addition, you may be interested in the following resources:
The Family Medicine Oral History Project
-- Our brochure which details the Family Medicine Oral History Project.
(2-page PDF file; About PDFs
Family Medicine Oral History Interviewer's Handbook
-- A free, downloadable guide on how to conduct your own oral histories.
(29-page PDF file; About PDFs
Oral Histories in Family Medicine
-- Powerpoint presentation by Bill Ventres, MD, MA, given at the 2009 STFM Annual Spring Conference which gives an excellent capsule summary on how to conduct oral histories.
(26-page PowerPoint file; About Downloading
Oral History Interviews
-- Lists individuals in the specialty, organized by last name, that the CHFM would like to obtain oral histories from, or whose interviews are already preserved.
(8-page PDF file; About PDFs
"Voices From Family Medicine" Project
-- Transcripts of interviews with Family Medicine leaders, completed to celebrate STFM's 25th anniversary in 1992.