“Oral history is a field of study and a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events. Oral history is both the oldest type of historical inquiry, predating the written word, and one of the most modern, initiated with tape recorders in the 1940s and now using 21st-century digital technologies.”
Oral histories are primary sources. They contribute, alongside written sources, to the documentation of the past. Oral history, as a practice, includes everything from fieldwork, method, theory, and curation of the sources. Oral historians conduct interviews, transcribe and index the recordings, analyse the oral histories, archive and share them with their audience, usually, for educational purposes. Here, at IDCL, oral history is the primary method we use to collect the stories and memories of Texans.
We have gathered a selection of oral history resources – some essentials written by our staff, a list of oral history organisations, and an ever-growing annotated bibliography. We hope you find these helpful, and if you have some suggestions you’d like us to include contact us!
THE ESSENTIALS BY OUR STAFF
This is a series on the many dimensions of oral history. In the first piece, we briefly introduce oral history as a methodology and we address critics’ concern over the reliability of oral history sources. In the next episodes of this series, we are explore the history of this field and how it came to be what it is today; then interviewing, ethics and best practices; transcribing; archiving and lastly curating oral histories in digital archives.
At IDCL, our work and oral history practices are informed by anti-oppression approaches and we use oral history as a form of social justice. We would like to share our resources on this topic here. For more please refer to our Bibliography.
As a beginner guide and introduction to this work Say it Forward: A Guide to Social Justice Storytelling offers strategies and resources for creating justice-driven oral history projects.
ABOUT ANTI-OPPRESSION APPROACHES TO ORAL HISTORY
“Often, history is taught through a narrow range of sources, including history books and the media. But many of these sources are incomplete, presenting a top-down approach to history told through a single lens. […] [Oral History] makes space for stories that might not otherwise be heard. It creates a platform for individuals and communities that don’t feel connected to more dominant, established narratives to speak up and share their own personal experiences. The oral history process can empower people to count themselves as a part of history, and not separate from it, especially individuals and communities that have been marginalized or silenced.”
Dangl, Benjamin. “The Andean Oral History Workshop: Producing Indigenous People’s Histories in Bolivia” and “Recovering Santos Marka T’ula: The Caciques Apoderados Movement” in The Five Hundred Year Rebellion: Indigenous Movements and the Decolonization of History in Bolivia, 87-136. New York: Verso. 2019
Kerr, Daniel. “‘We Know What the Problem Is’: Using Oral History to Develop a Collaborative Analysis of Homelessness from the Bottom up.” Oral History Review 30.1 (2003): 27-45.
Bessarab, Dawn and Ng’andu, Bridget. “Yarning About Yarning as a Legitimate Method in Indigenous Research,” International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies 3, 1 (2010), 37.
Torre, María Elena. “Participatory Action Research and Critical Race Theory: Fueling Spaces for Nos-Otras to Research.” The Urban Review 41.1 (2009): 106–120.
Radu, Ioana. “Blurred Boundaries, Feminisms, and Indigenisms: Cocreating an Indigenous Oral History for Decolonization.” Oral History Review 45.1 (2018): 29–47.
ORAL HISTORY ORGANISATIONS
- Oral History Association
- Texas Oral History Association
- Southwest Oral History Association
- Oral History Master of Arts
- Texas After Violence
- Oral History in the Digital Age
- Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage
- Southern Oral History Program
- UNT Oral History Program
- UTEP Institute of Oral History
- Voices of Witness
Bibliography of Oral History Resources
Starry Night, Echo Park, Carlos Almaraz