CfP: Storytelling and Oral History. OHNI Annual Conference

Storytelling and Oral History

Oral History Network of Ireland Annual Conference

Maynooth University, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland

19th & 20th June 2020

Keynote address by Prof. Lynn Abrams (Chair in Modern History, University of Glasgow)

Deadline to submit a proposal: 21 February 2020

The Oral History Network of Ireland (OHNI) is pleased to announce its 2020 conference on the theme of “Storytelling and Oral History.” Allowing participants to tell their unique stories in their own words is key to the work of oral historians. This conference offers oral history practitioners an opportunity to reflect on the role played by storytelling within interviews, the factors that shape the telling of a story, and the potential future uses of those stories after the interview. This two-day conference will take place in Maynooth University on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th June 2020.

Continuing OHNI’s tradition of inviting keynote speakers of international renown, we are delighted to welcome Professor Lynn Abrams, Chair in Modern History, University of Glasgow. Abrams’ research interests span the history of women and gender, including oral history, of the modern period in Britain and Europe. She is the author of Oral History Theory as well as studies deploying oral history methodology including Myth and Materiality in a Woman’s World: Shetland 1800-2000 and The Orphan Country: Children of Scotland’s Broken Homes 1800-present. She is currently working on a book on postwar womanhood in Britain and is leading an AHRC research project on the history of knitted textiles in Scotland.

While we welcome proposals on any topic related to oral history, we are particularly interested in proposals that take an imaginative approach to the “Storytelling and Oral History” conference theme. Potential topics could include (but are not limited to):

  • How and why we tell stories
  • Memories as stories
  • The role of oral tradition
  • Unlocking hidden stories
  • Digital storytelling
  • Storytelling in group interviews
  • Performing stories
  • Place-based stories
  • Shaping stories through identity
  • Preserving stories
  • Storytelling and the decade of centenaries

Conference contributions are welcome in a range of formats:

  • Standard conference papers (20 minutes)
  • 10-minute presentations for our “Moments” panels, focusing on outstanding or memorable individuals, experiences, and/or incidents that influenced or changed the way the presenter practices oral history
  • Posters and visual presentations

To propose, please submit an abstract (of not more than 250 words) along with your name, the name of your group, name of your organisation or institution, and your email address to before Friday 21st February 2020 at 5 p.m. All proposals must demonstrate a clear engagement with oral history and/or personal testimony, and we actively encourage the use of audio clips. The conference committee’s decision on successful abstracts will be communicated to potential presenters in March.

You can download a copy of our Call for Papers here – Call for Papers_ Storytelling and Oral History.

Registration for the conference and further information will shortly be posted on the conference page of our website. For further details or queries, please contact us through

Informed consent

Oral history operates within a context of informed consent which can be said to have been given if it is based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action. In order to give informed consent, the individual concerned must have adequate reasoning faculties and be in possession of all relevant facts at the time consent is given. Impairments to reasoning and judgment which may make it impossible for someone to give informed consent include such factors as basic intellectual or emotional immaturity, severe learning disability, severe mental illness, intoxication, severe sleep deprivation, dementia, or being in a coma.

Oral historians need to focus not merely on gaining informed consent to enable the recording to begin, but should also inform participants about how the recording will be stored, preserved and used in the long-term, and how confidentiality, where promised, will be maintained. To ensure that consent is informed, consent must be freely given with sufficient information provided on all aspects of participation and data use and reuse. There must be active communication between the parties. Consent must never be inferred from a non-response to a communication such as a letter.

It is important to recognise that this notion of ‘informed consent’ that has underpinned oral history ethical best practice (and much other research) is different from the GDPR definition of the term ‘consent’. Interviewees still need to be fully ‘informed’ about, agree to, and be able to withdraw from the process which they are participating in. This can be achieved by using a pre-interview participation agreement.

Consent is only one of the legal bases available under GDPR to legitimise the processing of personal data, such as the making, storage and use of an oral history interview. You should be certain of your legal basis before beginning the interview, and the interviewee should be informed of the basis on which the recording is being made. Note that the legal basis that you choose to use determines which of the individual’s rights and which exemptions may apply to the activity.

You should also be aware that, when relying on consent for the publication or dissemination of an archive recording, you will also need the consent of every person who is identifiable from the interview, not just the interviewee, and this may be prohibitively difficult.

If you do choose to use consent as your legal basis, one of the key changes under GDPR is that consent to the use of personal data must be active (no pre-ticked boxes), clear, affirmative and distinguishable from other matters, and provided in an intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language. Consent needs to cover both the holding of personal data and its further processing (use).

OHS advice therefore (drawing on British Library policy) is that for the processing of personal data for archival purposes a data controller  should normally rely on the legal basis of ‘the performance of a task carried out in the public interest’ where legally able to do so, or on ‘legitimate interests’ where they are not. The processing of Special Category Data (previously called ‘sensitive personal data’: see below) requires an additional legal basis. For the processing of Special Category Data for archival purposes, a Data Controller should rely on Section 4(a) of Schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act 2018 – ‘necessary for archiving purposes… in the public interest’.

One of the characteristics of consent under GDPR is that it can be withdrawn at any time. If consent is withdrawn then you cannot substitute another legal basis to continue processing that data. This is why it is advisable to use one of the other legal bases other than consent when creating material for a permanent historic archive, hence the OHS recommendation above.

Research Ethics Committees (RECS)

University ethics committee vary in their practice but each is likely to have a code of practice which will indicate what ethical standards are required. An example of a flowchart which shows the stages to obtaining ethical review at a higher education institution is here. At a basic level, projects are likely to be expected to produce their research plan including a rationale, together with examples of consent forms or recording agreements, as well as information sheets. They are also likely to indicate awareness of such issues as risk assessment, deposit agreements and an indication that in carrying out the work the contribution of others and use of relevant source materials is acknowledged. An example of a REC application form (from Royal Holloway, University of London) is here.

The UK Data Archive has produced helpful guidance for researchers when approaching and working with RECS here.

LGBTQ Oral History Skills Sharing Session

A MATTER OF URGENCY: LGBTQ Oral History Skills Sharing Event

On Friday 22nd February 2019.  2pm-6pm

At Liverpool John Moores University. John Foster Building.

80-98 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, L3 5UZ (opposite the Catholic Cathedral).

Presented by the Oral History Society LGBTQ Special Interest Group.

Entrance Fee: £10 (plus booking charge). Booking essential. Open to all.

Following the success of the Oral History Society’s LGBTQ Special Interest Group’s all day workshop in 2018 that addressed LGBTQ oral history practice and theory, the SIG will be holding a follow-up workshop in Liverpool on 22nd February  2019.

Members of the Oral History Society LGBTQ Special Interest Group have observed that, in many ways, LGBTQ oral history presents different challenges and involves different methods from other forms of oral history. In this workshop, we will interrogate why this may be the case.

One of the main aims of the oral history movement was to uncover stories from marginalised communities in an attempt to create a broader historical record from the bottom up. As members of one of those groups whose voices have been previously marginalised, LGBTQ oral historians are now exploring their past and retrieving stories which have never been told. Moreover, LGBTQ oral history has moved beyond being merely recovery history, and into rigorous theoretical and methodological frameworks that allow us to also take a critical and cutting edge approach to oral histories of LGBTQ people. But how do we collect a hidden heritage, and how can we document it before it is lost? We believe this to be A Matter of Urgency, and invite you to join us in this important and exciting discussion.

Topics being addressed at the LGBTQ Skills Sharing Event include:

Identifying the positioning of the interviewer in regard to the narratorPerceived advantages of an ‘insider’ perspective when working with LGBTQ oral histories.

Ethical approaches and considerationsConsent and ‘Shared Authority’. How close we are to our past oppression, and how do we share what we learn?

The interview process itself The formation of a narrative between two, or more, people. Assumptions we make. Coming out in that space.

Narrators who speak about HIV/AIDS – An interviewer’s experience.  

If you have any questions about this event, please contact Clare Summerskill, Chair of the Oral History Society LGBTQ Special Interest Group at

There will be an Oral History Society LGBTQ Special Interest Group (SIG) meeting in the morning (11am-1pm) also at the university. Members and non-members welcome. Please contact us if you need further details about this meeting

The Eventbrite link for booking is

Event – Archiving Personal Histories: The Tuam Mother and Baby Home

All are welcome to this seminar at NUI Galway:

Archiving Personal Histories: The Tuam Mother and Baby Home

Event co-organised by the James Hardiman Library and the Department of History NUI Galway

Thursday, 7 February 2019

The Cube, Áras Na Mac Léinn, NUI Galway


10.30: Tea/Coffee & pastries. Opening comments by Prof. Pat Dolan (Chair, UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre)

11.00-12.30: Survivor-led Workshop

Workshop led by Breeda Murphy (Tuam Home Survivors Network) and Mary Cunningham (Tuam Oral History Project) involving participants from the Network, invited students and staff. Limited places; to book, contact: for queries)

12.45-13.45 – Lunch

Seminar – All Welcome

14.15: Welcome address from the Dean of Arts, Professor Cathal O’Donoghue. Introduction by John Cox, James Hardiman Library.

Panel 1: 14.30-15.45

Panel Discussion: Advocacy and Historical Justice

Moderator: Catríona Crowe

* Catherine Corless

* Prof. Caroline McGregor

* Conall Ó Fátharta

* Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley

15.45-16.00: Tea/Coffee


Panel 2: 16.00-17.00

Oral History and Memory: Ethics and Approaches

Chair: Dr John Cunningham

* Dr Caitríona Clear

* Dr Barry Houlihan

15 minute papers followed by general discussion.


Evening Public Event: Human Biology Building (reception in the foyer, screening in the lecture theatre)

17.15-18.15: Launch of the ‘Tuam Oral History Project’ by President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh.

Wine reception and finger food. Music by Padraig Stevens. Poetry by Elaine Feeney.


18.15-20.00: Screening of Mia Mullarkey documentary, ‘Mother and Baby’, followed by panel discussion.

Moderator: Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley

Panel: Mia Mullarkey, Peter Mulryan, Breeda Murphy and Eunan Duffy.



Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley, Department of History:

Dr Barry Houlihan, James Hardiman Library:

Dr John Cunningham, Department of History:

2019 WHN Community History Prize

It’s that exciting time of year – the Women’s History Network Community History Prize 2018 is live and calling for entries!

This annual prize of £500 is awarded to the team behind a Community History Project by, about, or for women in a particular locale or community which has been completed between the 1 January 2018 and 31st May 2019. It has been sponsored by The History Press since 2015.

Last year’s prize was won by the wonderful entry from the Royal College of Nursing- please follow this link to see more about it:

For details of this year’s competition go to

The Women’s History Network is a national association and charity for the promotion of women’s history and the encouragement of women and men interested in women’s history. Established in 1991, the network reaches out to welcome people from any background who share a passion for women’s history.

We encourage submissions from projects which include a strong element of community engagement or collaboration and which communicate a sense of heritage uncovered and learning shared by participants from outside the academic or professional heritage sector.

Projects can have creative or wellbeing outcomes, as well as research outputs, but the entrants’ activity must have led to the creation of something which is based on and communicates the findings of the group’s historical research, such as a production, artwork, website, documentary, pamphlet, heritage trail, book, exhibition, artefact or event.

A poster and an entry form are here.

Strategic Plan 2019-2021


You can read the Strategic Plan 2019-2021 below or download it as a pdf here.



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)