Publication Date

May 18, 2009



In past AHA Today posts we’ve touched on the availability of oral history resources online, often briefly mentioning them as an element of a larger online resource. For instance, the recent Digital Archives post notes oral history recordings and transcripts at a number of sites online. And our post on StoryCorps (also mentioned below) was about an organization that collects and preserves oral histories. We’ve even once put up a post about an oral history fellowship. 

Oral history is also closely tied to another hot topic on AHA Today and in the history profession: Institutional Review Boards.  Some posts on AHA Today on IRBs include: The Problem with IRBs, Debating the Need for IRBs – A Chronicle Colloquy, and AHA Asks for Oral History Exclusion. See more IRB posts on AHA Today here.  Also see Zachary M. Schrag’s Institutional Review Blog, which “seeks to inform the debate over IRB review of non-biomedical research by collecting breaking news, commentary, and background information on the subject.”

Below we present just a small handful of oral history resources available online. As always, please feel free to contribute information on and links to more relevant sites in the comments below.

Oral History Association
Those interested in oral history should of course visit the Oral History Association’s site. The OHA’s mission is to “bring together all persons interested in oral history as a way of collecting and interpreting human memories to foster knowledge and human dignity.” Their site offers news, information on awards and events, a featured site (currently The Muskie Oral History Project), and more. Their resources section points visitors to the OHA Wiki, which offers a wealth of information and links that visitors can add to.

We recently blogged about this oral history project and its specific initiatives for stories from Alaska, African Americans, people with memory loss, September 11th,
New York, and San Francisco.

Mass. Memories Road Show
In response to the StoryCorps blog post, we were informed of the Mass. Memories Road Show of the University of Massachusetts Boston. This project collects photographs and videotapes stories of Massachusetts history.

Smithsonian Archives of American Art Oral Histories
The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art has collected dozens of oral histories. A full list appears online. Most of these provide a record of the interview and a full transcript of what was said, and a number also include sound clips.

Historical Voices
Historical Voices is a site run by the Michigan State University Matrix: Center for the Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online. It offers a number of “galleries” of collected oral histories, provides links to lesson plans for teaching with “audio artifacts,” and is planning to provide more content like “’best practices’ for building an online digital repository.”

EDSITEment Lesson Plans
EDSITEment offers many excellent lesson plans on a range of topics, and oral history is not left out. We highlight two of these plans below:

  • What is History? Timelines and Oral Histories teaches students that history is made up of many people’s stories, and that the same story can be influenced by the storyteller’s biases.
  • Listening to History has students conduct oral history interviews with their family members. This teaches students how to prepare for an interview, the technique aspects of recording, and putting these interviews in historical context.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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