Marginalising Oral History

This article is looking at the oral history of the Partition of India, but is also interesting as it addresses the broader issue of the value of oral history as part of general history.  Despite its utility in comprehending tragic events such as the Partition of India, oral history keeps getting rebuffed for its ‘soft’ and ‘subjective’ approach.  Scepticism on the merits of oral history abound, with advocates of the conventional form often looking down upon it as a ‘soft’ approach. One of the chief complaints levelled at oral history is that the statements obtained through interviews are highly subjective, and hence have the potential to create a history far less accurate. They argue that during the recollection of personal or collective memories, certain memories that create ambiguities, and do not suit the broader narrative goals, are often conveniently purged or reshaped, consciously or subconsciously, through a kind of ‘selective amnesia’.  Read full article here.

Gay Men in the American Military

As “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” comes to an end, Chris Heath interviewed dozens of gay servicemen from the past and present to find out what life was really like as America’s military struggled with its last great identity crisis.  On September 20, 2011 a serviceman’s sexuality will no longer be grounds for dismissal from the U.S. Armed forces. These are the voices explaining what it has been like to be a gay man in the American military over the previous seventy or so years, from World War II veterans in their late eighties to young servicemen on active duty.  For full story click here.

StoryCorps Founder Shares His Story

Dave Isay is founder of StoryCorps, the largest American oral history project, and author of “Listening is an Act of Love” and “Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps,” both compilations of thousands of interview manuscripts. Many of these everyday stories can also be heard weekly on National Public Radio stations in America. Isay said “The StoryCorps project is about listening and encouraging us to listen. It’s also a generous act to ask someone who they are and what their lives are about … kindness, courage and the struggle of people living the fullest life possible at its best … authentic stories honoring people who live.”  For full story click here.

Ordinary People Tell the real Singapore Story

There are millions of stories from Singapore’s past – real-life moments that happened long, long ago, now in the Oral History Centre at the city’s National Archives.  It is Singapore’s alternative history. These are the kind of stories that you won’t find in the history books. Since its inception in 1979, almost 4,000 people – from rickshaw pullers to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew – have submitted their own personal accounts on tape for the archives. The centre has more than 18,000 hours of precious material.  It is history brought to life through the spoken word.  For the full story click here.

1947 Partition Archive Preserves Traumatic Past

A new Berkeley-based non-profit group is collecting oral histories in video and audio format from those affected by the Partition of British India, the largest forced migration in human history.  14.5 million people were displaced in the violent partition of British India that split the country into Pakistan and India on August 15, 1947. What should have been a cause for celebration — independence from nearly a century of British rule — quickly turned into a nightmare for millions who were forced to migrate across the new border. Between 500,000 and 2 million people died in the process due to mob violence and extremists on both sides, although exact numbers are not known. For full story click here.

9/11 First Responders Memories To Be Made Part Of National Archives (USA)

9/11 Oral History Project’s 135 accounts of the attacks will become part of the permanent archives in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.  Elected officials and Sept. 11 first responders announced Monday that the Library of Congress has agreed to accept more than 135 oral accounts of the 9/11 attacks into its permanent archives.  For full story click here.

Columbia Center for Oral History Receives Two-Year Grant From Atlantic Philanthropies


The Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH), New York, a unit of the University Libraries, has received a two-year, $627,000 grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies to support expansion of its core staffing and project capacity.  This funding builds upon a previous grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies, which enabled the Center, formerly known as the Oral History Research Office, to undertake new and innovative projects in the areas of human rights and constitution freedoms. New work will proceed in the areas of public health, philanthropies, and the arts. For the full story click here.

Memories of the Dunstan Decade

The ABC program “7.30”  has featured the oral history project that focuses on former South Australian Premier Don Dunstan who was one of the most personally flamboyant and politically progressive politicians of the last century. The Don Dunstan Foundation is a member of the Oral History Association of Australia and is recording interviews with a number of Labor identities.  See our Projects page for more information.  To watch the “7.30” story, click here.

Sixth Floor Museum, Dealey Plaza, Dallas Texas

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza received notice of a $40,000 award from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support Shared Stories, an in-depth exploration of the use of oral histories in museum programming. Grant funds will allow the Museum to assemble a group of humanities scholars from a variety of disciplines to plan programs featuring the Museum’s growing Oral History Collection. The collection contains more than 850 recorded interviews with President Kennedy assassination eyewitnesses, law enforcement officers, members of the press and medical personnel from Parkland Hospital, motorcade spectators, White House officials, representatives of the local, national and international news media, as well as Dallas area school children, civil rights leaders, Peace Corps volunteers, astronauts and many others.  For the full story, click here.