Digital history has lended oral history a credence that it could never really have had in the past, given the inability to preserve oral history in its original form. However, since audio and video recordings make oral history technically on par with written records, now oral history has become a credible source. However, audio and video recordings do not eliminate the biggest problem with oral histories–or with any account given some time after an event. Oral histories are typically presented years, even decades, after the events described in the oral history. While written accounts can also be written years later, it’s certainly standard for oral histories, when the importance of certain events can only be realized years after the fact. Oral histories are not problematic because of the spoken aspect but because of the memory of the speaker. Unless an oral history is given in the immediate aftermath of an event, its veracity could seriously be called into question.
Because of my general distrust of oral histories, I find myself relying on my Plainville history book and the original report that my fellow Normandy scholar wrote on Gordon Mannix more than on interviews with older Plainville residents or my conversations with the surviving Mannix family. Their experiences are certainly real and valid, and I can’t deny the emotion behind having personal connections to history. However, I want to focus on the facts and make it clear when I am speculating, for instance, about the origin of Gordon’s artistic abilities.