Closing soon, please tell us your views – OHS Membership Consultation for Strategic Review 2018-2021


The OHS Membership Consultation closes on Sunday 4th March. We welcome your views, please read below for details.

The OHS has begun a process of review of the organisation and we are thinking about our plans over the next three years. We wish to ensure that we are spending within our budget, meeting our priorities, considering more effective ways of communicating with members and ensuring a diverse involvement at all levels of the organisation. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Please fill out the questionnaire below, or click here to download as a pdf and return to by Sunday 4th March 2018.


The aims and objectives of the OHS, as stated in its Constitution, are:
- To further the methods and encourage participation in the practice of oral history in all appropriate fields.
- To encourage the discussion of methodology, technical issues, problems and all relevant matters by the publication of a journal, and by the organisation of conferences, training, meetings, a regional network and other relevant activities.
We welcome your views on these objectives and whether anything should be changed or added.

Are there any changes/additions you would like to see considered?

We also welcome your views on which activities should take priority in achieving our objectives over the next three years. A summary of the Society’s current activities is set out at When you have had chance to consider this, we would ask you to answer the questions below, and to add any other comments of your own.

What in your opinion should be the top five priorities for the OHS over the next three years, in order of importance? Please feel free to include ideas of your own as well as drawing on the list of current activities.

What in your view should take the lowest priority over the next five years? Is there anything that could/should be dispensed with altogether?


Membership of the OHS has been declining since 2013. There is also an imperative to ensure greater diversity within the OHS membership. Membership subscriptions are a vital income stream and if the decline continues or does not grow substantially, it could signify the end of the Oral History Society unless there are other options. Please let us know your thoughts on these or any other membership issue.

In your view, given the increased number of oral history projects since 2000, why has membership of the Oral History Society not increased?

In your view, what does the Oral History Society need to do to increase its membership base?

As well as increasing membership, are there other services that you would like the Oral History Society to develop?

The Society would like to increase the diversity of its members in terms of ethnicity, culture and belief, gender and sexuality, age and social status. In your view, what does the Oral History Society need to do to achieve this aim?

Do you think the Oral History Society should remain a membership organisation? If yes, why? If not, why not?

If the Oral History Society was not a membership organisation, what alternative methods could be explored to raise funds?


Aims and Objectives (see extract from Constitution above p1).


Oral history has been successful in enabling people who have been ‘hidden from history’ to have their voices heard. Groups engaging in oral history across the UK are demonstrably diverse. However, this diversity might be better represented in OHS membership and its Trustees.

How can the OHS increase the diversity of its members in terms of ethnicity, culture and belief, gender and sexuality, age and social status?


OHS communication on oral history issues and activity takes place via the journal, website, social media, regional network, conferences, seminars, and Special Interest Groups (SIGs).

Is OHS communication up to date and technologically relevant to diverse oral history practitioners in the UK?

How can the OHS meaningfully use technologically to encourage interconnection and discussion amongst diverse practitioners?


The OHS needs to ensure that its financial resources are sustainable in the future. How can we do this?

In your view, is charging for membership key in ensuring that the OHS’s financial resources are sustainable?

Is charging for services against the OHS principles of being open to all?

How can the Society engage its membership and other interested parties in discussing and contributing to the real costs of carrying out oral history (ie how much/how many of the OHS services are members and others prepared to pay for, and how much should be free in the spirit of what oral history is?)

The Oral History Society is running, co-ordinating and partnering in a large number of activities including advice, training, advocacy, publishing, events and engagement with subject specialist groups. As part of the strategic review the Trustees recognise we need to reflect on the OHS governance structures to ensure that the organisation is efficient, effective, accountable and transparent in how we direct and manage our resources - both financial and human. The following questions will help address these issues. Please tick the response that best represents your opinion. If you have other comments outside these questions that you wish to share, please don't hesitate to provide them.

"I have sufficient information about the structure and governance of the Oral History Society." Do you? (Please click to select)

If you answered "Disagree" or "Strongly Disagree": What information do we need to provide?

If you answered "Agree" or "Strongly Agree": What do we do well; what could we do better?

"If I wished to contact the Oral History Society to ask how it is run…" (Please click to select)

If you wish to expand on your answer, please do so here:

Overall comments, not necessarily related to above themes. Please feel free to tell us anything about the Society.

We will be holding a strategy discussion meeting in London on 16th/17th March for Trustees and are hoping to invite a number of you from the wider membership to attend and add your perspective to our discussions. If you are interested in coming, please provide your name and contact email below and explain briefly why you would like to attend.

Name (optional)

Email (optional)

Why I'd like to attend (optional)


Seminar to show alternative history of 20th century Belfast

Sean O’Connell (pictured left), from Queen’s University, Belfast, will lead the next oral history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research on Thursday February 15. The paper, The troubles with a lower case ‘t’: memory, deindustrialisation and urban redevelopment in Belfast, is part of a much wider project that seeks to open up the social history of Belfast via oral history.

The city’s historians have – not surprisingly – focused on the violence and sectarianism (the ‘Troubles’) that soaked it in blood for much of the late 20th century. But there are important aspects of Belfast’s history that remain untold because of this focus. O’Connell will present a detailed example of one of those previously submerged narratives. Moreover, he will argue that the ‘Troubles’ can only be understood fully if historians take due cognisance of everyday life in 20th century Belfast.

Like many other cities in the United Kingdom, post-Second World War Belfast underwent extensive ‘slum clearances’ and redevelopment that dramatically re-shaped numerous inner city working class districts. Social historians in the UK have debated the nature of the impact of this traumatic experience on working class social memory in oral history testimonies and autobiographies. 

O’Connell will argue that inner city Belfast underwent two sets of ‘Troubles’ from the late 1960s to the 1980s. The first was the sectarian violence most associated with the term, which broke down the uneasy social relations established between Catholic and Protestant workmates and neighbours.

The second was the process of urban redevelopment, which alongside accelerating deindustrialisation, features as traumatic memory in popular representations of Belfast’s working class past.  Examining oral testimony, short stories and novels, photographs, and street art, O’Connell will explore how the former residents of Sailortown have attempted to come to terms with the impact of urban redevelopment and deindustrialisation on their lives. This dockside district was one of Belfast’s most cosmopolitan communities.

The Sailortown area prided itself on being ‘mixed’: meaning that unlike most Belfast working class districts, Catholics and Protestants co-existed in large numbers. The fracturing of those relationships by sectarian violence adds – potentially – an interesting gloss to the urban pastoral dynamic (associated by some historians with working class memory of urban redevelopment). This paper will investigate that issue as well as identifying the themes that feature most prominently (or are omitted) in the social memory of Sailortown.

  • The seminar takes place at 6pm on Thursday February 15 in the John S Cohen room (203), Senate House, North Block, Malet St, London WC1E 7HU. The seminar is free and open to all. There is no need to book in advance.