The UNTOLD MILLIONS Oral History Project works best when interested and motivated "collectors" capture the stories and remembrances of those who have actually experienced history. We don’t expect people to gather and interview hundreds of individuals or devote full time to the effort. If you are able to save the stories of just one family member or friend, you have contributed mightily to this effort.
Keeping your goal reasonable is important, both in collecting and preparing this material for publication, because these are not only the most important parts of the project but also the most labor intensive.
Here are some brief suggestions. Please share your own experiences with us and we will add them to this web site as we go.
Keep in mind that whether you gather written material or oral histories, they will eventually be published primarily in e-book form, which can easily be downloaded for use by those with Kindle, Nook or other e-book reading devices. You may also want to make them available in paperback through Amazon.com’s print-on-demand service. In either case, you or someone you know will have to serve as an editor and, to some extent, the book designer. If you are not comfortable doing this, you will need to recruit help.
It is important to remember that you are not trying to produce a best-selling book here. It will not need to read like a novel. While you want it to be readable and to fit the publishers’ guidelines, this does not necessarily have to look like a book you might find on the shelves of your local bookstore or among the hundreds of thousands of e-books available for download.
Your mission is to get this material published in a form that can be accessed and read for years to come.
These sources are by far the best for capturing eye-witness accounts, and especially if they were kept over a period of time when the writer was actually involved in that bit of history. You should strive to preserve the material as close to its original form as possible.
On the other hand, you should do your best to eliminate or point out typos, factual errors, or obvious misspellings. If the person who wrote the material is still available, have him or her clear up any fuzzy handwriting or obvious mistakes.
However, do not worry too much about grammar, incomplete sentences or "pretty" writing. You want to preserve the material so others will be able to read it, refer to it, and use it to tell a complete story that may include the material you have captured along with many other saved accounts.
Remember, you should explain fully to anyone (or whoever actually "owns" the journal or manuscript) whose material you plan on publishing how it will be used and how any possible proceeds are to be handled. While revenue will almost certainly be minimal, misunderstandings could result in legal problems and/or having to remove the material from the publishing web site. Make sure EVERYONE involved understands what will happen to both revenue and ownership after this material is published!
If there is some way to prove the date the material was created—a computer file date, a notation of a completiong date, or the like—it is technically copyrighted effective of that date. If not, then your completed manuscript should be dated and include the notation: Copyright (year) by (Name of copyright holder[s]).
Regardless of who recorded an oral history, or whether it was electronically recorded or consists of the interviewer’s notes, it will have to be converted into a word processing document in order to be published. This can be as simple as transcribing the recording or notes. If you are not comfortable using computers or word processing programs such as Microsoft Word, you will need to recruit someone to do this for you.
The guidelines above for dealing with manuscripts or journals also apply to oral histories. And you should have a clear understanding with the subject or his or her surviving family about who owns the material and how revenue—if there should ever be any—will be handled.
For more details beyond what is available on this web site, download Don Keith's book for Kindle and other e-readers titled "UNTOLD MILLIONS: HOW YOU CAN CAPTURE AND SAVE EYEWITNESS HISTORY.