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Oral history

What is oral history?

An oral history is a recorded conversation, often in the form of an informal interview, focusing on the lived experience of an interviewee. It is a personal record of their memories, experiences and opinions. Community archive groups are well placed to conduct oral history recordings and capture stories about their communities.

Oral histories can form a significant part of a community archive’s holdings. Recordings can be made available for researchers to listen to in a community space or added to websites for wider access.

Why are oral history recordings important?

Oral history recordings are a useful complement to more traditional materials, such as manuscript documents and photographs, usually found in an archive. They fill gaps in the historical record and provide important information, enabling researchers to engage with ‘history from below’ (the history of ordinary people) as well as ‘history from above’ (the history of government, businesses and institutions).

Oral history recordings can provide fascinating insights into domestic life, workplaces, societies and the development of local communities. They can also provide different perspectives on major historical events, such as World War II, as well as documenting important aspects of the present, such as the coronavirus pandemic.

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