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.
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.
1 March 2019 is the deadline for submissions to present at the biennial Oral History Australia conference (in Brisbane, 10-13 October 2019). You can find the Call for presentations at www.
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 narrator – Perceived advantages of an ‘insider’ perspective when working with LGBTQ oral histories.
Ethical approaches and considerations – Consent 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-matter-of-urgency-lgbtq-oral-history-skills-sharing-event-tickets-53748200314
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: Tuamoralhistoryproject@gmail.com 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
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: email@example.com
Dr Barry Houlihan, James Hardiman Library: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr John Cunningham, Department of History: email@example.com
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:https://womenshistorynetwork.org/category/prizes/prizewinners/
For details of this year’s competition go to https://womenshistorynetwork.org/whn-community-history-prize-sponsored-by-the-history-press/
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.
You can read the Strategic Plan 2019-2021 below or download it as a pdf here.
The conference provisional programme for the 2018 Annual Conference of the OHS and OHNI with QUOTE Hub, Queen’s University Belfast has now been released. You can download the programme here and make a booking for the conference here.
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.
Oral history is one of the most exciting methods for recording, preserving, and celebrating the lives and experiences of LGBTQ people. For several decades numerous projects have sought to record the lives of our queer forbears. Many of these important collections, however, remain uncatalogued or held in in places unknown to most researchers. The map of LGBTQ Oral Histories is a crowd-sourced initiative sponsored by the OHS LGBTQ Special Interest Group and the Queer Beyond London research project that seeks to identify, locate and map these important collections so that students, researchers and community members may have fuller access to our past.
You can access the map here https://www.historypin.org/en/lgbtq-oral-history or use the interactive box below.