Oral history is hard to define because of the wide array of sources that are considered oral history. Things such as the story of Beowulf to the conversation you had with your father about his childhood in the 60s all could be called oral history. Historians officially agree that oral history officially started in 1940 when a historian wanted to record information on President Grover Cleveland. (What is Oral History) He interviewed and recorded people that knew him and worked with him in order to provide information to future historians or biographers.

Oral history, according to the article “What is Oral History, ” is a “self-conscious, disciplined conversation between two people about some aspect of the past considered by them to be of historical significance and intentionally recorded for the record. Although the conversation takes the form of an interview, in which one person–the interviewer–asks questions of another person–variously referred to as the interviewee or narrator–oral history is, at its heart, a dialogue.” This immediacy, and dialogue that takes place between two people is closely related to the fields of anthropology and journalism. Include, the fact that most sources being created today are video sources means that we need to become adept at analyzing video. We will need team members in order do this effectively.

Parnterships are necessary with “journalists” or “public media producers” in order to make the best of the new technologies that are now at the disposal of historians. I think this digitization of information and the huge amount digital sources being video is going to make all historians into oral historians or instead “video historians.” (Kaufman)

Oral history has the ability to move history from visually focused exhibits and website we see to more rich and dynamic experiences by using sound. (Teabeau) Nothing compares to a human voice, and a moving human face to make the past relatable to modern audiences. Oral history, and video history are going to be the name of the game.


3 thoughts on “Oral History

  1. I like that you brought in the fact that oral historians should work with other disciplines. Since this is a time of change in the discipline and I think that will be key in determining where the discipline will go.


  2. I like that you are including Journalism and Anthropology in the picture! I come from an Art and Anthropology background and feel that there is a lot of information that can be shared between people of different training. Quite a bit of art, journalism and anthropology is about collecting stories and information to present and preserve.


    • I couldn’t agree more kaeeduro. Historians could learn so much from journalists in the art of telling a story. And Anthropology is amazing in providing a method is examining sources that are traditionally outside of what historians normally examine.


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