Oral History Policies and Procedures
As part of the University of Virginia, the Miller Center is a nonpartisan and nonprofit center for research. The Center thus has no affiliation with a particular political party or perspective. To ensure the quality and objectivity of our presidential oral history interviews, the Center follows these principles, policies, and procedures:
The interviews are conducted according to the highest professional standards by scholars who are knowledgeable about the presidency and attentive to history. The sessions take place at the Miller Center in Charlottesville or other sites conducive to thoughtful and candid discussion free from interruptions. The Center requests at least one interview extending over a two-day period with the former president and each of his/her cabinet and senior staff appointees. All interviews are audio recorded.
The sessions are normally conducted by several scholars working as a team. An effort is made to include on the team at least one scholar who is versed in a given respondent's special area of responsibility (national security affairs, legislative affairs, press relations, for example). Former officials are welcome to invite their former deputies or assistants to join them at the interview table.
To ensure that respondents have ample opportunity to talk about those subjects they themselves deem important for a full and fair picture of the presidency as they knew it, interviews are governed by no rigid agenda or detailed questionnaire. The preferred model for the interviews is a seminar in which the respondents are the teachers and the scholars are students who pose questions of historical rather than journalistic import. Among the topics covered in most interviews are the history of the respondent's association with the president; the issues, activities, and working relationships in which the respondent was mainly involved; and the respondent's own picture and assessment of the presidency as he/she knew it, as distinguished from news media portraits and assessments made during incumbency.
To help make the most fruitful use of limited interview time, both the respondent and the interviewers are asked to suggest in advance those topics or areas of inquiry they deem especially important to be covered in the interview. Drawing on these suggestions, a provisional agenda is included in the briefing packet mentioned below. This agenda is reviewed in a pre-interview meeting of the interview team at the interview site and is discussed with the respondent before the interview commences.
Researchers at the Center aid in preparations for an interview by compiling, digesting, and responding to interviewers' requests for available information pertinent to the interview. A briefing packet containing a selection of this information is distributed to the respondent as well as to the interviewers about two weeks in advance of the interview.
Each person interviewed is assured of the strict confidentiality of his/her remarks until such time as that person clears the remarks in the transcript for research and educational use as provided in (7) below. Prior to such clearance, access to the transcript is restricted to authorized members of the Presidential Oral History Program to be used solely for the purpose of their own preparation for follow-up or related interviews. Remarks made by a respondent in one interview are not divulged to a respondent in another interview.
Soon after an interview a copy-edited transcript is sent to the respondent, who may edit it to his/her satisfaction and may elect to place restrictions on the disclosure or attribution of his/her remarks in the transcript. Cleared transcripts are normally made available for general research and educational use upon the completion of the interviews for a given project. Earlier release may be made when, in the judgment of the Program Director, this would not jeopardize the successful completion of the remaining project interviews. A copy of the cleared transcript is furnished to the respondent for his/her own files and, with the consent of the respondent, to the appropriate presidential library and other archive facilities.
Our general policy is to retain the original audio recording along with the cleared transcript at the Miller Center's Scripps Library in Charlottesville. Access to the audio recording is restricted to ensure that, if the respondent has edited the transcript, the edited version will be the authoritative record of the respondent's remarks. At the conclusion of a project, the Scripps Library will prepare the cleared archive for dissemination in print and/or electronic form for research and educational purposes.
The Presidential Oral History Program creates unique historical source materials in the form of recorded oral history interviews with leading public figures and those associated with them. The mission of the Program is to enable future generations to learn about the American democracy of our time directly from those who were entrusted to govern it.
The Kennedy Oral History Project is intended to capture for the permanent historical record a comprehensive set of recollections and reflections that will illuminate Edward Kennedy's public life, his vocation, the institutions in which he has served, and the political world in which he has moved.
The Miller Center is a non-partisan research center of the University of Virginia which has no affiliation with a particular political party, perspective, or philosophy. As one of the major activities of the Center, the Oral History Program adheres strictly to the canons of professional, impartial scholarly inquiry in all of our interview projects. To ensure the quality and objectivity of our oral history interviews, the Kennedy Project follows these principles, policies and procedures.
Interviews are conducted by scholars, principally in political science and history, who are affiliated with the Miller Center and selected by the Project Director. They are conducted as conversations rather than interrogations, in settings conducive to thoughtful and candid interchange free from interruptions.
Interview sessions are closed to all save the interviewee(s), the interviewer(s), and assisting Project staff. Interviewees may invite personal associates or staff to join them at the interview if they believe this would add value to the interview record. Many interviews are conducted by several scholars acting as a team. All interviews are audio-recorded. Some may be video-recorded with the consent of the interviewee and the Project director under arrangements that minimize intrusion on the interview process.
The subject matter of an interview ideally reflects the interviewee's judgment as well as the interviewing scholar's judgment about what is important for future generations to learn that they might not be able to learn from contemporary documents, records, news accounts, and other sources. We welcome interviewee's input in developing a topical outline to guide the interview session.
The Project's researchers aid in preparations for an interview by gathering, digesting, and analyzing available information pertinent to the interview. Interviewees as well as interviewers are encouraged to suggest or contribute useful background material for the interview.
Interview remarks are held in strict confidence until the transcripts are released. The interviewee may make stipulations concerning the release of his/her transcript on a release form provided by the Miller Center. Prior to release, interview records are held by the Miller Center in secure files that are accessible only by authorized Kennedy Project personnel for internal Project use. Remarks by an interviewee in his/her own interview are not divulged to any other interviewee.
Interviewees have the opportunity to edit, correct, or augment their interview remarks prior to release. For this purpose, the Project Manager sends the interviewee a copy-edited Raw Transcript which the recipient is asked to return, indicating any changes to the transcript on the returned copy. The Project Editor then prepares a clean Final Transcript, incorporating any changes made by the interviewee.
Final Transcripts will be publicly released by the Miller Center at roughly the same time when the Project is completed, except in cases where the interviewee has stipulated otherwise. Final Transcripts are closed until the release date. Raw Transcripts and unedited audio records are sealed for a fifty-year period following the date of the interview unless the interviewee has agreed in writing to unseal his/her unedited interview at an earlier date.
All interview records will be permanently archived at the repository of Edward M. Kennedy's papers in Massachusetts and at the Miller Center's Scripps Library in Charlottesville, Virginia. A copy of the archived transcript will be furnished to the interviewee for his/her personal file.