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Oral History Interviews Lead to Employment Interviews

By Jessica O’Rourke, LCHS Intern, Washington State University MA Graduate in Public History

I knew quickly after interning with Latah County Historical Society during my Spring 2022 semester that I wanted to return for another internship. Thankfully, now in my last semester, I was graciously granted another opportunity to gain additional skills and learn more through LCHS. As a Public History major, I feel at home in archives and have spent considerable time at various institutions handling archival materials as both a volunteer and intern. However, I was lacking experience in oral histories and knew I needed to have real hands-on practice with oral histories to make myself as marketable as possible for post-graduation opportunities. Though I had conducted a few informal interviews in my personal time, I had never done so professionally with the proper paperwork, nor had I attempted to edit the interview clips nor transcribe them.

Initially, my main task at LCHS was to organize, digitize, and transcribe existing oral histories. However, Kaitlynn allowed me to conduct my own oral history interview. This was an exciting and enlightening experience, during which I interviewed Moscow native Julie Garfield. Julie was willing to sit down for a lengthy interview with me to discuss growing up and living in Moscow her entire life. We were able to use the McConnell Mansion as a quiet space, which added some fun to the interview. Through interviewing Julie, I gained practice in using software like Audacity and Express Scribe, which I had no prior exposure to using. I also helped create and modify the necessary written agreements and paperwork needed to professionally conduct an oral history interview.

Filing cabinets at LCHS containing oral history interviews. Photo by author.

Other than some minimal technical issues, my internship has been smooth sailing. Navigating Audacity and Express Scribe was a bit challenging in the beginning, but I now feel more comfortable with the two software systems. Another hurdle to overcome was deciphering some of the audio clips of pre-existing interviews completed decades ago. Some of the older audio files in particular are less than ideal quality, and the audio is poor. Problem solving these issues has exposed me to the differences in audio qualities. It has introduced me to the importance of ensuring good audio quality for every interview conducted so that when the file is used in the future, listeners are not left scratching their heads in confusion and frustration.

As I graduate from my current MA program and begin my career in the museum field, I reflect on my internships with great gratitude and fondness. The importance of internships and participation in hands-on work cannot be overstated. If any history student were to ask me for advice, I would encourage them to inquire about interning with their local historical society or museum. Truly, my experiences here have shaped me as a public historian. I am very grateful for Hayley and Kaitlynn’s kindness and willingness to grant me opportunities to learn at LCHS. My time here has made me a strong candidate on the job market—enough so that I have secured a job, which I will be starting after graduation in May. I have been hired as Assistant Curator at the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois, Wyoming.

Thank you, LCHS!

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