First created in 2004, the oral history program of the U.S. House of Representatives provides detailed descriptions of legislative processes and procedures, as well as recollections about the evolving nature of the institution. The interviews conducted by the Office of the House Historian add a personal element to the often unfamiliar and complicated inner workings of Congress. Recording the memories of people who have worked in various capacities at the Capitol allows congressional staff the opportunity to familiarize themselves with past House practices, which in turn may inform those making decisions and planning policies in the present. By providing such a resource, the Historian’s Office also seeks to promote further interest in and study of the history of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Oral history interviews are recorded using audio and/or video equipment. The office produces transcripts, interview summaries, and electronic copies of the recordings. Audio and video recordings will be archived and made available publicly through the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and the Library of Congress. Original recordings—as well as any supporting documentary materials such as letters or pictures—will be stored and protected according to archival standards.
In preparing interview transcripts for publication, the editors sought to balance several priorities:
- As a primary rule, the editors aimed for fidelity to the spoken word and the conversational style in accord with generally accepted oral history practices.
- The editors made minor editorial changes to the transcripts in instances where they believed such changes would make interviews more accessible to readers. For instance, excessive false starts and filler words were removed when they did not materially affect the meaning of the ideas expressed by the interviewee.
- In accord with standard oral history practices, interviewees were allowed to review their transcripts, although they were encouraged to avoid making substantial editorial revisions and deletions that would change the conversational style of the transcripts or the ideas expressed therein.
- The editors welcomed additional notes, comments, or written observations that the interviewees wished to insert into the record and noted any substantial changes to the transcript.
- Copy-editing of the transcripts was based on the standards set forth in The Chicago Manual of Style.
For more information about the House of Representatives oral history program contact the Office of House Historian at (202) 226-1300, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.