Research: Interviews Part One

Photograph of the Dawson City Museum
Dawson City Museum

by Robin Nelson

The Dawson City Museum Project will be integrated in my teaching for courses in museum management and cultural policy (AGAD 226 and 301). As students become involved in the analysis, I would like them to understand how data was collected. So, there will be a series of posts about research methods. Within this post, I will outline our plans for the interviews and the work that has already been done.

Step one: Ethics approval

Within a university setting, research involving human participants often requires approval from an ethics review board. Information on MacEwan’s rules and protocols are available here.

In order to get approval for my research, I filled out an application with information on interview procedures and the ways potential risks will be mitigated. For example, the Dawson City Museum’s Executive Director, Alex, is involved in the research as a community partner, which presents a possible power imbalance with participants. As such, it is important for all past and current Dawson City Museum employees and volunteers to know their participation (or lack thereof) will have no impact on their relationship with Alex or the Museum.

The consent form is one way that participants will be told their participation is voluntary and will not influence their relationship with the Museum. The form also provides information about the intent of the research and confidentiality. There are multiple questions about the level of confidentiality participants are comfortable with and how they would like their data to be stored or shared, which is another way risk is mitigated. The form is available below.

In addition to the consent form, I prepared a question guide for the interviews and introductory email as part of the ethics review process. These documents are available below.

Fortunately, these documents were okayed and I received ethics approval in May – yay!

Step two: More prep work

I am currently (June 8th) on Step two.

Alex and I have prepared a list of people I should interview based on his experiences as Executive Director and my preliminary research (otherwise known as googling and looking on Linkedin). Based on this list, I will likely do 15-20 interviews from July 2021 to December 2021.

Alex and I are working together to invite these people to participate.

When I did interviews for research on Ontario community museum policy, this step was easy because most people I wanted to talk with had emails publicly available online. Unfortunately (for me), many people in Yukon do not seem to have emails or current places of employment easily accessible through a google search. Due to confidentiality concerns and the ethics review process discussed above, Alex cannot simply give me people’s contact information. So, he has his own invitation letter, which he will send to the people he knows to invite participation and give my information.

We are dividing the list in a spreadsheet and will be sending out those letters (…emails) soon. This part makes me nervous – I hope people want to talk to me!

Step three: Interviews

Step three is what I am most excited about – learning from people!

Due to covid, I cannot go to Dawson City to interview people (unfortunately – I went in 2016 and it was beautiful!). Making things more difficult, Dawson does not always have the best internet connection, which makes zoom interviews improbable. So, I will likely be doing these interviews by phone.

After reviewing the consent form, I will use the question guide to have a conversation with participation, which will be recorded with their consent. In my experience, these interviews usually last an hour and my attention starts to wane after 2 -3. However, I once had an interview last six hours and move to a sandwich place to accommodate our growling stomachs.

There are more steps, including transcription and getting approval for the transcription. However, I will include those in a separate post focusing on all the work that comes after the fun part.

Question / Request for advice

With the participants consent, we will be using the interview recordings for the podcast miniseries commemorating the Dawson City Museum for its 60th anniversary. I have never done this before and am worried about sound quality.

Do you have any suggestions? How would you record the phone conversation?

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