Virtual Conference 2021


Oral History and the Media

Friday 9th and Saturday 10th July 2021


Oral history and the media have an important but complex relationship. The media has long been a significant producer of, and outlet for, oral history.  Classic radio and television productions like The Radio Ballads (1958-1964), Yesterday’s Witness (1969-1981), and The World at War (1973-4) pioneered the use of oral history in the media, giving voice to those who would otherwise have been excluded from both the media and the historical record. Since the 1980s, there has been growing use of oral history in TV and radio documentaries and storytelling, with oral histories now forming an important and popular dimension of history and factual programming and broadcasting. However, the methodological, aesthetic, narrative, and ethical decisions behind these productions – such as who to interview, what questions to ask, and what parts of the interviews end up on the “cutting room floor” – often remain hidden.

The relationship between oral history and the media can also be seen in how oral history has been used to explore the histories and experiences of the media itself, with oral history projects charting the development of media companies and organisation. This has coincided with an upsurge of interest in memory and nostalgia related to the experiences of media, such as memories of cinema, books and music.

Elsewhere, the advent of new media and social media has fuelled the growth of digital storytelling, interactive documentaries, as well as serialised audio podcasts which draw heavily on oral history testimony. Whilst these new technologies, formats and channels offer new ways of creating, disseminating and consuming oral history, they also raise vital questions about ethics, participation, expertise, audiences, and formats in oral history practice.

This conference aims to consider the relationship between oral history and the media, both historically and today, by exploring similarities, differences, opportunities and challenges between media practices and oral history practices, from interviewing to editing, audiences to ethics, covering topics such as:

  • The Use and Misuse of Oral History in the Media
  • Memories of (the) Media: Film, Books, TV, Radio, Theatre, Music.
  • The Influence of the Media on Memory: Mediated Memory and Prosthetic Memory
  • Oral History, Media and Editing: Soundbites, Vox-Pops and the ‘Cutting-Room Floor’
  • Oral History, Media and Interviewing: Intersubjectivity, Questions, and Emotion
  • Journalism, Crisis Oral History and Historical Distance
  • Oral Histories of the Media (professions, organisations and companies)
  • New Media, Social Media and Oral History
  • Changing Media and Formats and its implications for Oral History
  • Archiving, Preservation and Re-use of Oral Histories in the Media

Provisional keynote speakers include:

  • Margaretta Jolly (University of Sussex, author of ‘Sisterhood and After’, OUP 2019) on oral history, the media and the women’s movement
  • Charlotte Knowles and Michelle Scarlett  (Independent Film Trust) on oral history and virtual reality technologies
  • Alan Dein (BBC Radio 4) on oral history and radio
  • Steve Humphries (Testimony Films)  on oral history and documentary film
  • David Hendy  (University of Sussex,  project lead ‘Connected Histories of the BBC’) on oral history and the BBC

For more information, please contact the conference organiser.

Membership discount

Don’t forget that you can receive discounts on OHS conferences, as well as early notification of all forms of events when you become a member of the Oral History Society.

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