Interviews are a fantastic resource for NHD. They can provide valuable information on your topic, fill in gaps of your research, and provide expert opinions on history.
A question I often get is: Are interviews primary sources? Sometimes, but not all of the time. Remember, primary sources are from the time period of your topic or created by someone who was there. So if you interview someone who witnessed, experienced, or lived through your topic in history, then the interview can count as a primary source. If you interview someone who is an expert, who has researched your topic, but did not live through it, for example, a college professor, then the interview is a secondary source.
How can you find someone to interview? Colleges and Universities are great places to start. Look up the History Department website of a college near you. Usually they will have a listing of faculty members and many times will have a brief biography that tells you the professors' areas of expertise. Find a professor that teaches your topic and/or the time period you're studying and contact them. Another suggestion is to try to track down the authors of the secondary source books you have read. If the book was published fairly recently, try searching the author's name on Google or another search engine to see if you can find contact information for them. We have even had students contact the publishing company of the book to track down an author. Think about special interest groups that you might contact. If you are doing a military related topic, contact the VFW. Researching a topic on the Civil Rights Movement? Try contacting the NAACP branch in your city or state. Don't forget about museums as a possible place to find interviews! There are all types of museums out there where you could find experts to interview. is your project on Nazi Germany? You could always try to contact a museum in Germany through their website and conduct an interview via email or set a time to Skype with someone from the museum (of course you'd want to find someone who spoke English or maybe you speak German!). One other suggestion would be members of your community. Are you doing a project on fire safety laws? Set up an interview with a local fireman. Is your topic on a Supreme Court case about the search and seizure amendment? Contact the police department to speak with someone.
There are so many great ways to find someone to interview and you don't have to stick to just one! Cast the net wide. Send emails or call a university professor, a museum curator, and an author. If they all respond, great! You'll get 3 wonderful interviews with 3 different perspectives. But the more people you try to contact, the better the chance you'll have of at least getting 1 interview.
I always encourage students to try contacting anyone they can think of. Even if you think, there is no way this person will ever call me back. You never know!!! We have had students interview Yoko Ono via email, the granddaughter of Huey Long, even Walter Mondale, former VP of the United States!
Don't rely on just email and be persistent. Obviously you will need to give someone a chance to respond but if you send an email and haven't heard back after a week, call them. I would try to contact a person at least 3 times before giving up.
Check with with the blog later and we'll give you tips for developing interview questions and conducting your interview.