The Leelanau Voices Project was started 5 years ago by Peter and Betty Mann.
Betty explained the reason behind their involvement with the project: "We were doing this sort of thing when we lived in Bloomfield Hills for the Detroit Historical Museum. I had 25 years of experience with the University of Michigan Institute of Social Research and Peter (who worked for General Motors) had a longtime passion for photography and documentary photography in particular."
Peter continued, "We've long been interested in Leelanau County for the rich history. Basically, we applied the skills we had to our interests."
Over the last five years the Leelanau Voices Project has compiled audio tapes and photographs from over 100 "old-timers" in all walks of life. A few of these are now available online at the Leelanau Historical Museum's web site.
Peter and Betty offered a few tips to those who might like to try their hand at the work of an oral historian.
First and foremost, Peter advised: "Use a tape recorder that works, and do a test first so that the technical quality is good!!"
The set-up work doesn't end there, as Betty explained. "It's important to structure your interview. I like to do my homework beforehand. Spend some time and make a list. When you structure you come up with a lot of ideas. Interviewers often focus on the big things: wars, major events. I find that these often get the same response from almost anyone. Their childhood, favorite beverage and other homey things can make for a more interesting interview.
Even though you may have a big list, don't be too rigid. People just starting in interviewing are often afraid of pauses--they can be a real asset in interview. As people search memories, they need a little time."
In the course of the interview, Peter says, "I like to have people be factually specific, to name names, places and dates. When they say: 'We went to store and saw so-and-so' ask them 'What store?'. The historical value of an interview which contains these kind of details is far superior.
You can learn about Leelanau County history first hand by listening to the oral histories recorded for the Leelanau Voices Oral History Project at the Leelanau Historical Museum in Leland. You can also visit the Leelanau Voices Project online at http://www.leelanau.com/history/voices/ and contact Peter and Betty Mann via e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.