In 2011, GW Law recorded its first oral history interview with an emeritus faculty member, formally embarking on the Oral Histories of The George Washington University Law School. The project’s interviews record the experiences and impressions of GW Law’s emeritus faculty and deans, the Stockton Guard (GW Law alumni who graduated forty or more years ago), and other key members of the GW Law community. Capturing and preserving the memories of these participants in the history of the Law School ensures that their voices are heard by future researchers. This record, unique in character, can provide a singular perspective on institutional events, since it finds its source in thoughts, perceptions, and verbal exchanges that typically do not find their way into University documents, newspapers, or magazines.
“Oral history” refers both to the technique of gathering information from narrators, also known as interviewees or interview subjects, as well as the audio-visual product of the interview and its transcription. Its antecedents are found in the earliest attempts at historical method, including the accounts by Thucydides of the Peloponnesian War. Although its process may be casual in appearance, an oral history interview is often the technique of choice to record information with potential historical significance. It is regarded as a primary source, and as such can carry considerable research value.
Each interview begins with a brief introduction by the interviewer, followed by a short series of questions relating to the narrator’s pre-GW life: place of birth and childhood, secondary school, college, graduate and law school, military service, and pre-GW employment. This information sets context for the narrator's GW Law experience, and highlights the variety of backgrounds that have produced the faculty and graduates of GW Law. The prepared questions relating to the narrator’s GW years are intended as guidance and to provide a launching pad for exposition of pertinent issues as they come to mind for the narrator. The interviews are conversational in nature, aimed at allowing the narrators the time and latitude necessary to explore the issues they find most important.
Interviews generally last approximately two hours, and some narrators choose to schedule, or are invited to schedule, additional sessions to cover in appropriate depth the totality of their GW experiences and contributions.
GW Law’s oral history project follows the guidelines set by the Oral History Association in its statement of “Principles and Best Practices,” adopted in 2009: http://www.oralhistory.org/about/principles-and-practices/
* All oral history interviews in the project are videorecorded. Interviews are available electronically in their entirety upon request by qualified researchers, unless restrictions on use have been stipulated by the narrator or GW Law. Access will be provided remotely for a specified period of time. Interviews cannot be recorded by researchers. Please contact the Director of Special Collections, Jennie Meade, at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a viewing time.
* An oral history may contain sensitive and/or intimate information; we counsel researchers to approach the interviews with care and respect, and exercise sound judgment in deciding how their research should be used.
* The interviews may be used for scholarly, historical, and educational purposes.
* Researchers must cite and give proper credit to the Oral Histories of The George Washington University Law School. The suggested citation format is:
For a footnote or endnote: __________[last name, first name], oral history interview recorded on ____________, Oral Histories of The George Washington University Law School, Special Collections, The George Washington University Law Library, _______[start/end times].