Interview Response

Having no prior interview experience, I was quite nervous while conducting my interview with Sharon Scruggs. Prof. Knight has referred to these in-class interviews, on a few occasions, as “artificial.” I think this is interesting, and probably accurate, since I feel that the interview would have been much easier if I did not have an audience. I spoke in class about the pressure and responsibility of the interviewer to keep the interview going. This pressure was only intensified by the presence of the entire class. In a way, I was performing. Had I been sitting alone with Sharon Scruggs, I feel the situation would have been much different.
Another concern of mine was how to balance a more conversational interview with a more structured question and answer interview. I feel that a conversational element can loosen the atmosphere, and perhaps make the interviewee feel more comfortable. On the other hand, in order to obtain as much pertinent information as you can, I feel that some structure and well thought out questioning is the way to go. There is probably an undefinable balance that works, and it is probably different for every interviewer/interviewee combination.
I think, as an observer, that all of the people who have interviewed so far have done a good job. The questioning has been provocative, yet appropriate. I feel that we have been very fortunate to have two very kind, outgoing, talkative, and patient interviewees. I was certainly comforted by Sharon Scruggs’s demeanor and willingness to attempt a response to every question, regardless of whether she felt she had much to say or not.

1 Response to “Interview Response”


  1. 1 iaknig February 25, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    The issue of how to balance the personal and “historical” in oral history interviews is probably the most vexing–even the most structuring feature–of the form. And there is not an exact science to it. But I think a good rule/idea to keep in mind is that you want to make your interviewee comfortable… but you don’t want to get wholly comfortable yourself and you want to keep alert to areas that are important to ask about (say issues of social exclusion or stratification) but might be a little tough.

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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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