First meeting of environment and climate change group


The Oral History Society’s Special Interest Group on Environment and Climate Change (ECC- SIG) held its first meeting at the British Library on 17th November 2016.

The meeting, chaired by Allan Shepherd, who first proposed setting up the group, brought together nine members, including a participant via Skype from Alaska, to share information about their respective research interests and to discuss the way forward for the ECC-SIG.

Discussions ranged from members’ own oral history projects and educational initiatives to current global issues such as the impact of the Paris Agreement, US elections and lack of ice in the Arctic. Speaking via Skype from Alaska, Leslie McCartney, spoke of her work documenting the significant impact of global warming and climate change on the region’s communities that depend on ice for their survival. 

Leslie also emphasised how older archival oral histories were now being sought by scientists studying the current situation of receding ice. This highlighted the need to identify existing recordings that focus on or contain relevant information on environmental issues.

Members are keen to work together and use the ECC-SIG as a forum to share information, collaborate on joint projects and publications and develop innovative and engaging ways to disseminate audio recordings in an effort to raise awareness of the topic. Since the meeting, the group has shared a number of useful links that may be of interest to others:

We are keen to hear from OHS members about their projects and welcome new members to the ECC-SIG. For more information or to join the group, click here.

This guide is for people who record oral history interviews, and organisations and individuals who keep collections of oral history recordings in the four nations of the United Kingdom. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland comprise the UK and amongst them have three legal systems. However so far as the law is referred to in this document it is safe to assume that all come within the wider context of UK and European law. The Oral History Society promotes the use of oral history techniques to record the memories of those whose life stories would otherwise be lost to future generations, and encourages researchers and teachers to make use of oral history in their work.

It is essential that interviewees should have confidence and trust in interviewers, and that recordings should be available for research and other use within a legal and ethical framework which protects the interests of interviewees. The following information and guidelines are aimed at ensuring that these objectives are achieved.

Anyone involved with the creation and preservation of oral history interviews should take steps to safeguard their reputation for trustworthiness. This means ensuring that what they do is within the various UK and European laws that apply to oral history and that they have not been acting illegally. Oral historians generally speaking have a good reputation in this respect. This guidance is therefore offered as reassurance and advice to both interviewers and interviewees.

The Oral History Society believes that, while oral history work must comply with the law, legal requirements alone do not provide an adequate framework for good practice. No UK law was designed specifically to regulate oral history work; in fact no law even mentions it. Beyond legal considerations we have long held the view that oral historians should abide by a voluntary set of ethical guidelines.

For these reasons this guide covers responsibilities and obligations beyond legal requirements. Members of the Oral History Society, including those who are custodians, archivists and librarians, have agreed to abide by these guidelines.

The guidance reflects the workflow of a typical oral history interview. Much of the legal and technical detail is available not within the main guidance text but via hypertext links so that the key steps and terms can be understood and followed. There are also links to sample documents and resources.