There is no doubt that story-telling can be therapeutic. But, we as oral historians are trained to document while therapists are trained in their field with entirely different goals. Oral historians record stories that offer experiential information in order to create primary sources that are preserved and made available to the public. It is wonderful when, through the course of an oral history interview, we can help the interviewee heal as perhaps part of their therapy, but I believe that it’s best for oral historians to stick to the overall goal of documenting — while being especially careful with respondents who have recently experienced trauma.
Jennifer Abraham Cramer, director of Louisiana State University’s T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, “Oral History in Disasters Zones."
[Staff note: In light of today’s anniversary, an excerpt from an interview we conducted with our media review editor about conducting oral history research following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.]