Oral history in the UK: a new special collection
[A guest post from Elspeth Millar, Oral History Archive Assistant in the National Lifestory Collection at the British Library.]
I have been involved in the the pilot Curators' Choice project, led by the Digital Curator team. The Curators' Choice project is helping curators within the British Library to establish collections in the UK Web Archive, based on the subject expertise of their curatorial department. As Archive Assistant for Oral History and National Life Stories at the British Library my natural topic of choice was going to be websites relating to 'Oral History in the UK'. I have nominated organisational or individual project websites which give information about a project (project background, participants, funding information), and websites which provide access to finding aids for oral history interviews, but ideally sites which provide direct online access to oral history archive material (either clips or full interviews).
I was lucky to have existing resources at my disposal to discover relevant websites, in particular our own Oral History section resources page, the Oral History Society website and the Oral History Journal; the journal includes a 'Current British Work' section which helpfully lists current oral history projects around the UK.
Oral History in the UK was traditionally concerned with community history and uncovering 'history from below' although it is now widely used within many academic disciplines. I hope that the websites so far included in the 'Oral History in the UK' collection demonstrate the variety of ways in which Oral History is now used - from use by community and local history groups, charities but also universities. The range of websites in the collection includes those which document local history (Durham in Time, St. Helier Memories); the experiences of people who have emigrated to the UK (such as the Birmingham Black Oral History Project); disability history (Speaking Up For Disability); health (Testimony - inside stories of mental health care); industry (Songs of Steel); and memories of war (The Workers' War, Captive Memories).
The websites vary widely in the way they present oral history. Many websites, although not all, provide access to extracts from oral history audio or video archive material; and most sites also provide information on the project background, participants and funding arrangements.
There are many more websites I would love to include in the collection; indeed many more websites have been nominated for inclusion within the collection but the Web Archive team is awaiting permission from the website owners to include the site. We'll carry on nominating sites for inclusion, but we welcome nominations from the public as well - if you think there is an important UK oral history website that is not being included in the UK Web Archive at the moment contact the Web Archive team.