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.


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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