Archive for February, 2008

Some Thoughts on the Practice Interview with Prof. Pinson

In general I thought this interview went very well. You did a good job of framing open-ended questions and of developing follow up questions. I thought there were two specific aspects of the interview that could have been improved, though.

The first is technical rather than substantial, but it is important: When you start an interview, you need to identify yourself, the place and time, and your interviewee—and then ask them to identify themselves. This ensures that if the recording ever gets separated from its supporting documents a) it can, if possible, get reconnected with them, and b) it can still be useful to future researchers. Catherine skipped this bit—probably because she was a little nervous. No big deal, since this was practice, but something to be aware of for future interviews.

Remember this script from our handbook: “It is [date] at [time]. This is X, and I am here in Y location, interviewing Z. Z, for our recording would you please state your name, in whatever form you prefer?”

The second is that the local—and specifically Williamsburg—angle didn’t figure very prominently in your interview. Part of this was certainly due to the artificiality of the practice interview circumstance. And part of it was due to the extensive and interesting detail she supplied, and you all cultivated, about her growing up That said—especially since Prof. Pinson’s family moved quite a lot (and for interesting reasons)—it would have been useful to urge her to reflect explicitly on place and its meaning(s) for her. When you all got her to Williamsburg, you asked some great questions about connecting place to her writing—but she wriggled away. This would have been a good time to try repeating/reformulating the question or looping back around.

Updated Questions

Updated Peer Questions –
1. Would you please state your full name for the Record? Are any of your names derived from your family? Sometimes names can have interesting anecdotes or coincidences, does this pertain to you?
2. Can you list the place or places that you have considered your home throughout your life… and a brief analysis on how these residencies have affected your growth as a person and your perception of place?
3. Are you an only child? or How do you fit in your line of siblings? How has this affected your personality?
4. What is the most valuable lesson that you have taken from nuclear family and how has it shaped your life?
5. What problem or problems bothered you the most about your high school and what would you do to change them?
6. Do you think a stranger could associate you with a place you are from? For example, my accent and use of colloquialisms are relative to southwestern Virginia. Why or Why not? Is there something that you are aware of that suggests your living or being raised in a certain area?
7. What are your parents’/guardians’ occupations, religious faiths, and political positions? With these categories as a guide, what belief do you most strongly share with your parents? And most strongly disagree?
8. What was or still is your favorite children’s book and why? If a children’s book does not come to mind…what is your favorite fictional piece and how has it affected your life?
9. Before officially enrolling at the College of William and Mary, what was your knowledge of Williamsburg, VA? How has this initial identification changed with your career here at the College?
10. When I say the word Golf what are your first thoughts concerning the subject?
11. Do you or any of your close friends or family members have any ties to the hobby? If yes, could you elaborate on these connections?
12. Have you ever lived in a Golf course community? If not, what would you suspect would be its differences from a more typical residency?

Where have you lived?

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Last Thursday everyone did a great job with our first “practice” interview. After frantically writing my own index to the interview, and then having some time to think about it, I have one suggestion I wanted share with you. You might want to ask where people have lived and where they go in Williamsburg. Part of living in a place is interacting with the physical space itself. For example, this past year I moved to a different area of Williamsburg where I do not run into many students, I don’t see the College unless I am going to work, and I rarely find myself going through CW. How might “my” Williamsburg differ from someone who lives on, say, Indian Springs Road? How does what I see, touch, hear, smell, etc., help shape what Williamsburg “is” for me? Knowing where a person has lived in Williamsburg, or where they go to do a certain activity, may help us, and other researchers, to better understand what it was like to be a resident of Williamsburg.


Questions for Student:

1) When do you first remember hearing about Williamsburg or the College? What images came to mind?

2) Did you visit Williamsburg? What was your first impression?

3) What did you hear others say about Williamsburg?

4) Did your parents go to College? What did they do in their twenties?

5) Will you stay in Williamsburg after you graduate?

6) How do you think you will remember Williamsburg?

Questions for Williamsburg resident:

1) Were you born here? What is your earliest memory of Williamsburg.

2) Are there any particular sights / smells / sounds that typify Williamsburg for you? Why?

3) What do you think other people think about Williamsburg? Are they correct?

4) Is Williamsburg defined by the College?

5) Do you think of Williamsburg as a city?

6) Are the people who live here now the “same” people who lived here when you were younger?

Interview questions

Questions for classmate

1. What are your plans after graduation?

2. Why did you choose William and Mary? Would you recommend the school to your friends? Why or why not?

3. What do you do in your spare time in Williamsburg?

4. What is the most embarrassing memory from your childhood?

5. What clubs are you involved in?

6. What is your happiest memory from you childhood?

Questions for a local

1. What changes have you seen in Williamsburg in the past 10 years? 20 years?

2. Are you happy about those changes? Why or why not?

3. What schools did you attend? Who was your favorite/most influencial teacher and why?

4. If you did not grow up in Williamsburg, what brought you here?

5. Do you like living in a tourist town? Why or why not?

6. What did you do in your leisure time?

Possible Interview Qs

Possible Interview Questions

Peer Questions –
1. What is the most valuable lesson that you have taken from nuclear family and how has it shaped your life?
2. What problem or problems bothered you the most about your high school and what would you do to change them?
3. Are you an only child? or How do you fit in your line of siblings? How has this affected your personality?
4. Do you think a stranger could guess your relative location? Why or Why not?
5. What are your parents’/guardians’ occupations, religious faiths, and political positions?
6. What was or still is your favorite children’s book and why?

WDP Interviewee –
1. What other golf courses in or around Williamsburg are you familiar with and what do you have to say about your experiences there?
2. Why do you guess that you were referred to me as a knowledge source on golf in Williamsburg?
3. When do you consider golf to be in season in Williamsburg? How often do golf here when golf is in season?
4. Why do you are you a member/ a frequenter of this golf course as opposed to the other courses Williamsburg has to offer?
5. If you were to switch to another country club or golf club in Williamsburg, which course would it be and why?
6. What is your biggest complaint about your current course and how would you work to solve this problem?

interview questions

Can you describe an experience that you feel particularly proud of? What did you accomplish? Why is it memorable for you?

Can you point out an individual or an experience that has been particularly influential in your life? If you cannot think of a particular experience, can you describe some of the ways in which your aspirations have either changed or remained consistent?

Who would you number as part of your “family”? Describe some experiences that brought you closer with these individuals?

Do you have any major regrets?

What pastime activities do you spend the most amount of time on? In what ways are these activities enjoyable?

Have you ever in your life considered yourself a religious person? If so, how would you characterize your observance, and are there any particular religious experiences that stand out for you (either positively or negatively)? If not, what are your thoughts on religion in general?

What were your views on Williamsburg and William and Mary before you arrived as a freshman? What is your view now? Are you happy with your experience so far? Do you find that your peers share some of your same views?

How long have you lived in Williamsburg? Are there some aspects of your environment that you would like to change?

What is your most memorable experience in Williamsburg? Can you describe the emotions that you were feeling at the time?

Would you consider yourself a liberal Jew or an orthodox Jew? Has Williamsburg been a positive environment in terms of your Jewish observance? Did it play a role in your decision to move to Williamsburg?

What is your professional background? Would you call your job experience largely positive? How is your place of employment connected with the city of Williamsburg, if at all?

Where and in what situation do you feel most comfortable?

Oral History Questions

Classmate Interviews:

1) Where did you grow up? How did this place shape your childhood?
2) What is your earliest memory?
3) Why did you want to go to college? Why did you choose William & Mary?
4) What groups and activities are you currently involved in? Why?
5) Who do you feel has had the greatest influence on you life so far?
6) How do you think your parents and upbringing influence your ideology?

Local Interviews:

1) When did you come to Williamsburg? Why?
2) How do you know most of the people you know in Williamsburg?
3) How do you think Williamsburg has changed since you’ve lived here? Has it changed for better or worse?
4) Do you ever visit Colonial Williamsburg? Why or why not?
5) Do you vote in local elections? Why or why not?
6) How do you view yourself within the Williamsburg community?


1. Where are you from? Have you always lived there?
2. Where did you go to high school? What was it like?
3. What about William and Mary drew you to Williamsburg?
4. Is there any aspect of Williamsburg, or William and Mary, which reminds you of home? Why?
5. Are you happy to be here most days?
6. What does a typical Friday night consist of?
1. Where are you from?
2. Did you actively choose Williamsburg as your home?
3. Has the city changed since you made the decision to live here? How?
4. Do you visit historic areas regularly?
5. How do you feel that the College of William and Mary affects living in a small town?
6. What do you do on a typical Friday night?

Interview Questions

Potential Interview Questions
Classmate Interviewee:
Are you a Williamsburg native?
If not, did you visit Williamsburg as a child?
How far did you travel to visit?
What impressions from that encounter do you have?
If you are a Williamsburg native, why did you choose to attend school locally?
What other schools did you consider?
Do you consider yourself a part of the Williamsburg community at large?
What does or does not make you part of the community?
What local businesses do you frequent most often?
Do you have a car?
If you had a vehicle would you consider frequenting other businesses?
Do you have a job?
Are you on a sports team? At school or in the community?
When you do not eat on campus where do you typically eat? How frequently?
What is your favorite food? Can you remember the first time you ate it? Who introduced you to it?
What are your plans for Spring Break?
Do you know where the closest Native American Reservation is?
Do you know where in Colonial Williamsburg I can find representations of Native Americans?

Local Interviewee:
Are you a native of Williamsburg?
If not, what brought you to Williamsburg?
Do you intend to stay in Williamsburg for the foreseeable future?
What communities within Williamsburg do you consider yourself a member of?
– professional relationships
– civic organizations
– religious organizations
What is the most controversial local event that you can remember?
What were its long-term effects on the City of Williamsburg?
How does tourism affect your daily life?
If you had to divide the community of Williamsburg into segments, how would you divide it?
What businesses do you frequent most often?
What is your least favorite place to visit, the one you dread?
Where do you buy your groceries?
Are there areas of Williamsburg that you do not go into? Why?
What is the most memorable national news event to which you can situate yourself physically and temporally?
– JFK’s assassination?
– The Death of Princess Diana?
– 9/11?
What is your typical leisure activity? What do you do for entertainment? Is it situated in Williamsburg or do you travel outside Williamsburg for leisure?
Outside of Jamestown where can I find Native Americans represented?
Do you know where the closest reservation is?
Do you know the names of the local tribes?

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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