There is no doubt the biggest challenge in the effort to capture UNTOLD STORIES is the actual collection. Many who lived history—and especially violent history, such as war—are hesitant to talk about their experiences. No one should be pressured to remember or share. Memories fade with age, too.
On the other hand, many people have been waiting for someone to ask. More than a few have kept letters, journals, notes and more. Some have even written book manuscripts. These are gold!
Please understand that the UNTOLD MILLIONS Oral History Project works best when interested and motivated “collectors” capture the stories and remembrances of those who have actually experienced history. We don’t expect people to gather and interview hundreds of individuals or devote full time to the effort. If you or those who help you are able to save the stories of just one family member or friend, you have contributed mightily to this effort.
Where do we find these UNTOLD MILLIONS of personal stories? The most obvious place to start is with family members. Neighbors, too. Friends and friends of friends. People in retirement homes or at church. Those who participate in senior citizen events. Members of veterans’ organizations. Civic clubs.
Let it be known that you are willing to assist them in preserving their stories and you probably will find some who are interested in sharing. Even if you don’t know someone personally who can contribute remembrances, you certainly know people who do know them. Remember, you do not have to do scores of these. If you can capture one or a few, and if hundreds of others will do the same, we will have soon be successful in saving these stories from which future generations will learn and be inspired.
Who can help? You! Anyone with some ability at editing and enough computer skills to follow the easy publication guidelines from the on-line publishers. Or it could be someone you know who you could recruit to assist you. You do not have to devote too much time or effort! If you can do just one person’s remembrances, it will contribute mightily to this project!
Who to interview? Anyone who has lived through and participated in important historical events or times. Some of the primary ones that come to mind include:
In short, anyone who has experienced history likely has stories and remembrances they can share that will help future generations better understand the times and events.
The collection of these stories can be as simple as gathering—with permission, of course—diaries, notes, journal entries or a manuscript and preparing it for archiving and publication. This is by far the best kind of material for purposes such as this. We will discuss getting such material ready for publishing on the PREPARING page.
You may have to actually record and transcribe an oral history. There is more work envolved with this, but often it is the only way to capture reminiscences or stories, especially from older subjects. Small digital recorders, such as those intended for students to record lectures, are inexpensive and perfectly adequate for this purpose, but any sort of recording device is fine.
In some cases, you may simply have to take notes as you "interview" the subject. Remember, you will eventually have to convert your notes or audio recordings into word processing files for publication, so keep that in mind as you gather material.
Remember, too, that the object here is not to try to write a bestselling book. You do not have to be a talented interviewer or writer either. We want to capture real-life experiences, memories, observations, and stories as best we can in order to preserve that history. Though it will need to be in an acceptable and readable form, it does not have to be great literature!
In another section of this web site, we will discuss actually publishing these stories to places where they will be available for sale to the general public. We will recommend the material be informally copyrighted and that a very minimal pricing structure be established. The object here is not necessarily for you to make money by selling the remembrances of others.
We highly recommend that you explain fully to anyone whose material you plan on publishing how it will be used and how any possible proceeds are to be handled. It will be your and your subjects’ option if you want to keep any or all of any revenue for your time and trouble or if you want to share it with your subject(s).
It is likely that there will be very little money involved, but ownership of the material and how any revenue resulting from the publishing of these oral histories should be clear and—when appropriate—in writing before proceeding.
We will address these points farther on other pages on this site.
For more details beyond what is available on this web site, download Don Keith's book for Kindle and other e-readers titled "UNTOLD MILLIONS: HOW YOU CAN CAPTURE AND SAVE EYEWITNESS HISTORY.