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Heritage Toolkit: Using Oral History and Film

Best for established groups but the sound and film work can be great for children

The idea:

Oral history is both an end in itself and a community activity, involving people in the interviewing, transcription or summarising of recordings. It is a way to record stories that don't get heard, especially those of marginal groups, the poor, the disadvantaged, minorities. Oral history is a genuine historical tool to use alongside other historical research methods.

How to do it:

Successful oral history projects may involve film and video as well as audio, and require training and expertise. However, the basic skills can be acquired easily by communities with help and support.

Oral history is probably best undertaken by well-established groups.

Things you need to think about:

What is the scope of the project? It is good to have a theme to follow, not just general interviews about `the past'. A broad theme such as `schooling', for example, allows you to include current schoolchildren in multi-generational projects. Older people in memories of pre-war schooldays could be a good example, as well as minority groups in sharing different experiences of schooling elsewhere.

Following a set theme means that interviews can be quite structured, and may be easier to summarise and transcribe. If you meet somebody extraordinary that you want to interview in a more general way you can always go back and do so.

What technical training and support can you get access to? Can this be part of the project, offering people training they might not otherwise get?

Tell us about any good examples of oral history projects you have come across, either by logging in to CAF and adding them to this page directly or sending an email to caf@britarch.ac.uk.

How to use your oral history interviews:

What will you do with the results of the project - the discs, recordings, videos, transcripts? How will you make them available to people - in an archive, in an exhibition, book, radio programme, film?

Heritage Lottery Fund has supported many small-scale oral history projects in the past and offers excellent guidelines for groups considering applying.
www.hlf.org.uk/English/PublicationsAndInfo/AccessingPublications/GuidanceNotes.htm


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