Oral History

The definition of Oral History is very well described in Wikipedia

    "Oral history is the collection and study of historical information about individuals, families, important events, or everyday life using audiotapes, videotapes, or transcriptions of planned interviews. These interviews are conducted with people who participated in or observed past events and whose memories and perceptions of these are to be preserved as an aural record for future generations. Oral history strives to obtain information from different perspectives, and most of these cannot be found in written sources. Oral history also refers to information gathered in this manner and to a written work (published or unpublished) based on such data, often preserved in archives and large libraries."

With their emphasis on personal stories as part of public history, oral histories tend to have a somewhat broader focus than stories told for strictly personal audiences–and the oral historian is expected to follow certain fairly specific standards. As an example, review the Principles and Best Practices adopted by the Oral History Association.

Oral histories are also typically archived in collections centered on specific themes. Whether your interest is in personal history or oral history, the resources shown below should be helpful. More information is available in the members-only section of this website, particularly about recording, editing, transcribing equipment, software and other topics of professional interest.

Organizations for Oral Historians

Association of Personal Historians (APH)
Stories about people are all around us. Stories about turning points in our own lives. Stories about the heritage and values of our communities. These stories deserve to be given life, which is why the members of APH help ordinary people tell their stories. Find a Personal Historian who sepcializes in oral histories to help you tell your story.

Brooklyn Historical Society—Oral History
An oral history project that statted to collect important audio documents: primary sources about people, ideas, and events that make up the history of 21st century Brooklyn.

Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH)
Formerly The Oral History Research Office at Columbia University, the CCOH is the oldest and largest organized oral history program in the world. Founded in 1948 by Pulitzer Prize winning historian Allan Nevins, the oral history collection now contains nearly 8,000 taped memoirs that include interviews with a wide variety of historical figures.

Internet Archive (IA) The Internet Archive was founded to build an Internet library, offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format. This library contains over two hundred thousand free digital recordings. Many of the audios and MP3s are available for free download. The IA is collaborating with institutions including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian, to preserve records for generations to come.

Minnesota Historical Society—Oral History
The Minnesota Historical Society has used oral history as a means of documenting Minnesota's past and present. The Society's oral history collection now includes hundreds of interviews with Minnesotans from all walks of life and all corners of the state.

Narrative Medicine Program (Columbia University)
Narrative Medicine fortifies clinical practice with the narrative competence to recognize, absorb, metabolize, interpret, and be moved by the stories of illness. Through narrative training, the Program in Narrative Medicine helps doctors, nurses, social workers, and therapists to improve the effectiveness of care.

Oral History Association, Canada (COHA)
Formed to help the diverse individuals and groups who express an interest in oral history by providing a clearing-house for information across Canada. COHA publishes the Forum, an annual review containing a selection of papers on oral history in Canada. The Association also sponsors national conferences to bring together practitioners for the exchange of information and experience and to promote the development or oral history in the different regions of Canada. Read the Canadian Oral History Blog.

Oral History Association, Australia (OHAA)
The goals of OHAA are to promote ethical practice and methods of oral history, education, and foster preservation and all aspects of oral history. National conferences are held biennially and the OHAA Journal is published annually.The OHAA has established an award to recognise those who have made an outstanding contribution to the cause of oral history in Australia over a considerable period of time.

Oral History Association (OHA), U.S. Regional & International
With an international membership, the OHA serves a broad and diverse audience - local historians, librarians and archivists, students, journalists, teachers, and academic scholars from many fields, and provides professional guidance and a collegial environment for sharing research. OHA wiki is a place where you can find and share information resources about oral history.

Oral History Society, UK
The Oral History Society (of Britain & Northern Ireland) provides more than 300 training places each year and supports over experienced oral historians as locally based Regional Networkers - a point of contact for anyone interested in oral history. It also provides information on how to get oral history work funded and publishes two editions of the Oral History Journal every year.

Regional Oral History Office at UC Berkeley
The Regional Oral History Office is a research program of the University of California, Berkeley, working within The Bancroft Library. ROHO conducts, teaches, analyzes, and archives oral and video history documents in a broad variety of subject areas critical to the history of California and the United States. ROHO provides a forum for students and scholars working with oral sources to deepen the quality of their research and to engage with the theory, methodology, and meaning of individual testimony and social memory.

StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 35,000 interviews from more than 70,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to broadcasts on the Listen page and on public radio.

    Read the StoryCorps review (  pdf) by Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner published by the University of California Press for the Oral History Association. A more recent post from Elisabeth—"Anyone who has listened to David Isay's audio documentaries may agree with me, that he is one of the most gifted and talented story tellers of our time. His portrait of one of the last flop houses for homeless here on New York City's Bowery, and his radio documentaries Witness to an Execution and Ghetto Life (about one of the most notorious public housing systems in the US) have really made radio history".

The Healing Story Alliance
The Healing Story Alliance explores and promotes the use of storytelling in healing. They want to reach out to other service professions; therapists, clergy, health care practitioners of all kinds, anyone who can see the benefit of story as a tool for healing.

The History Makers—African American Oral Histories
Historical research has focused largely on slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, music, sports and entertainment. The HistoryMakers' focus is to capture the stories of accomplished African Americans across all walks of life and to use video and new technologies to create an accessible digital collection to serve as a resource for students, teachers, scholars, documentary producers and the media.

Veteran's History Project—Library of Congress
The Veterans History Project (VHP) honors American war veterans by preserving stories of their service to our country in World War I, World War II, the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf, and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.