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Place-Based Questionnaire

Use these questions as desired for interviews about places that matter.

1. About the Interviewee (to understand the interviewee's relationship to the place)

  • Where were you born?
  • When did you first begin working/living/spending time in this place?
  • What is your association with this place?

2. About the Traditions (to understand how the place is used and note special activities)

  • What special events or activities happen here? Have they evolved over time?

3. About the Past (to understand what has happened here)

  • Can you tell me some of your favorite stories about this place -- either your own, or ones you've heard from others?
  • What is your most vivid/happy memory of the place? Do you have any sad memories?
  • What happened here that was unusual or meaningful? (maybe the place recalls an event, a time period, a way of life from the past?)
  • In what way does the place help us better understand the way things have changed over time?

4. About the Place as a Public Space (to understand how the place has fostered public congregation)

  • Is this a place where people congregate?
  • What ethnic, gender, or age distinctions exist among the people who gather here?
  • What attracts people to this place? Why and how often do they come together?
  • How does this place enliven public life?
  • To what extent do the users of this place share it comfortably? When and where are there (or have there been) conflicts?
  • How does the place contribute to the neighborhood's character? Is it considered a local landmark?
  • If it is not currently in use, when and why did it close down? Are there plans to reopen it?

5. About the Physical Features (to understand what the structure can tell us)

  • Can you identify any of its architectural features that help to convey the story/ies about the place that make it important?
  • What are the physical features that make it comfortable or useful to the people who use it?
  • In what ways does its design represent the values of those who built it or now use it?

6. About the Surrounding Neighborhood (to tell us more about how the place fits into its surroundings)

  • Who lives near whom here?
  • What is/was the ethnic composition of the neighborhood?
  • Who owns/owned the stores and businesses?
  • In what ways has the neighborhood changed?
  • How do/did new and old communities interact? Which streets, street corners, shops, restaurants, bars, cafeterias, churches, union halls, theaters, etc. are/were favorite gathering places?
  • How do people identify themselves here? By street, neighborhood, ethnicity, race?

7. Questions to Ask at Every Interview

  • What, if anything, currently threatens the site?
  • If this place were to disappear, what would be lost?
  • What would you miss most about it?
  • Are there other people in the area who can give testimony or tell stories about this site?
  • Can you direct me to any photos or archives of the site?