26 May 2011
Increasing access to oral history
Elspeth Millar, Oral History Archive Assistant, writes:
The Library has over 33,600 oral history recordings (ranging from 10 minutes to 30 hours in length) and around 800 of these are available via the ASR website. Of these 800 recordings, more than 300 are available to anyone worldwide (including interviews from Jewish Survivors of the Holocaust, Oral history of British Science and the George Ewart Evans collection). In addition, the ICA Talks, the Opie collection of children's games and songs and many recordings within the Accents and Dialects package (which are from the Library's oral history collections) are also available to everyone.
So whilst the vast majority of the Library's oral history recordings are still only accessible onsite at the British Library at St Pancras and Boston Spa, the the Oral History team (in line with the British Library's 2020 Vision) are trying to democratise access to the collections and we are increasingly using the Archival Sound Recordings website to provide remote access to more recordings. For example, interviews from our newest project An Oral History of British Science are being made accessible online as soon as they are complete and we have been gradually making interviews that were previously only accessible to those in UK Higher Education available to all users - the most recent of these are the interviews with Dame Josephine Barnes and with Sir Joseph Rotblat.
In this first section of her interview, Dame Josephine Barnes, the first female president of the British Medical Association, discusses childhood, studying physiology at Oxford in the 1930s (a time when the university imposed a quota on the number of women) and becoming a medical student at the University College Hospital Medical School in 1934: