Launch of the third edition of The Oral History Reader

Rob Perks, director of National Life Stories at the British Library, and Al Thomson, professor of history at Monash University, will be celebrating the publication of the third edition of The Oral History Reader, an essential text for both scholars and practitioners, at the next oral history research seminar.

OH readerThis international anthology combines major, ‘classic’ articles such as Alessandro Portelli’s What makes oral history different, with new chapters by oral historians such as Doug Boyd, an expert in digital histories, and Orlando Figes, author of The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia. The book, whose first edition was published in 1998, has 27 new chapters and includes new pieces on emotions and the senses, crisis oral history, current thinking around traumatic memory, the impact of digital mobile technologies, and how oral history is being used in public contexts, such as in museums and exhibitions.

The Reader also has more international examples than the previous editions, drawing in work from North and South America, Britain and Europe, Australasia, Asia and Africa.

Dr Perks and Prof Thomson will be discussing the editing process, the selection of texts and the changing face of oral history over the last 20 years in a seminar titled Transformations in oral history theory and practice: editing The Oral History Reader over two decades.

The seminar takes place on Monday December 14 at 6pm in Wolfson Room NB01, Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, London WC1E 7HU. Afterwards there will be opportunity for a glass of wine and further discussion. The seminar is free and all are welcome. Those who wish to purchase the book at the seminar will get a 20% discount.

For more information about the oral history research seminar series 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.