This article is about the historical discipline. For the oral transmission of historical information, see Oral tradition
. For information on protecting oral histories, see Oral history preservation
Oral history is the recording, preservation and interpretation of historical information, based on the personal experiences and opinions of the speaker.
It often takes the form of eye-witness evidence about past events, but can include folklore, myths, songs and stories passed down over the years by word of mouth. While it is an invaluable way of preserving the knowledge and understanding of older people, it can also involve interviewing younger generations. More recently, the use of video recording techniques has expanded the realm of oral history beyond verbal forms of communication and into the realm of gesture. Oral history can be inaccurate and needs to be used carefully in order to confirm the accuracy of the recorded materials.
 Oral history in modern times
Oral history has emerged as an international movement. Oral historians in different countries have approached the collection, analysis and dissemination of oral history in different ways. However, it should also be noted that there are many ways of doing oral history even within single national contexts.
 Oral history in Britain and Northern Ireland
Since the 1970s oral history in Britain has grown from being a method in folklore studies (see for example the work of the School of Scottish Studies in the 1950s) to become a key component in community histories. Oral history continues to be an important means by which non-academics can actively participate in 'making history'. However practitioners across a range of academic disciplines have also developed the method into a way of recording, understanding and archiving narrated memories. Influences have included women's history and labour history.
In Britain the Oral History Society has played a key role in facilitating and developing the use of oral history.
A more complete account of the history of oral history in Britain and Northern Ireland can be found at Making Oral History  on the Institute of Historical Research's web site.
 Modern tradition in the United States
Contemporary oral history involves recording or transcribing eyewitness accounts of historical events. Some anthropologists started collecting recordings (at first especially of Native American folklore) on phonograph cylinders in the late 19th century. In the 1930s the Works Progress Administration (WPA) sent out interviewers to collect accounts from various groups, including surviving witnesses of the American Civil War, Slavery, and other major historical events. The Library of Congress also began recording traditional American music and folklore onto acetate discs. With the development of audio tape recordings after World War II, the task of oral historians became easier.
In 1942 the New Yorker published a profile of Joe Gould, who claimed to be collecting 'An Oral History of Our Time.' Although Gould never produced this work, the magazine story about him popularized the term oral history.
In 1946 David Boder, a professor of psychology at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, traveled to Europe to record long interviews with "displaced persons" -- most of them Holocaust survivors. Using the first device capable of capturing hours of audio -- the wire recorder -- Boder came back with the first recorded Holocaust testimonials and in all likelihood the first recorded oral histories of significant length.
In 1948 Alan Nevins, a Columbia University historian, established the Columbia Oral History Research Office, with a mission of recording, transcribing, and preserving oral history interviews. In 1967 American oral historians founded the Oral History Association, and in 1969 British oral historians founded the Oral History Society. There are now numerous national organizations and an International Oral History Association, which hold workshops and conferences and publish newsletters and journals devoted to oral history theory and practices.
Historians, folklorists, anthropologists, sociologists, journalists, linguists, and many others employ some form of interviewing in their research. Although multi-disciplinary, oral historians have promoted common ethics and standards of practice, most importantly the attaining of the 'informed consent' of those being interviewed. Usually this is achieved through a deed of gift, which also establishes copyright ownership that is critical for publication and archival preservation.
Oral historians generally prefer to ask open-ended questions and avoid leading questions that encourage people to say what they think the interviewer wants them to say. Some interviews are 'life reviews,' conducted with those at the end of their careers, others are focused on a specific period in their lives, such as war veterans, or specific events, such as those with survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
The first oral history archives focused on interviews with prominent politicians, diplomats, military officers, and business leaders. By the 1960s and '70s, interviewing began being employed more often when historians investigate history from below. Whatever the field or focus of a project, oral historians attempt to record the memories of many different people when researching a given event. Interviewing a single person provides a single perspective. Individuals may misremember events or distort their account for personal reasons. By interviewing widely, oral historians seek points of agreement among many different sources, and also record the complexity of the issues. The nature of memory'both individual and community'is as much a part of the practice of oral history as are the stories collected.
 Oral history and the legal interpretation
In 1997 the Supreme Court of Canada, in the Delgamuukw v. British Columbia trial, ruled that oral histories were just as important as written testimony. Of oral histories, it said "that they are tangential to the ultimate purpose of the fact-finding process at trial-the determination of the historical truth."
 Also See
 External links
 Case studies and collections
- Regional Oral History Office / Rosie the Riveter / WWII American Homefront Project
- Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries 
- Southern Oral History Program, University of North Carolina 
- Maria Rogers Oral History Program, Boulder Public Library, Boulder, Colorado 
- Oral History Project on Memory and Displacement - Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by War, Genocide and other Human Rights Violations
- Saving Stories: A blog about oral history, Kentucky, archives and digital technologies
- African American Oral History Collection at University of Louisville (Louisville, Kentucky)
- Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project - Digital collection of video interviews about the World War II internment of Japanese Americans (US)
- American Life Histories- WPA Writers' Project 1936'1940 at Library of Congress (US)
- Recollections of WWII - directory of oral history collections relating to WWII
- Food Stories- Food related oral history recordings from the British Library Sound Archive
- Immigrants in Black & White: A Review of 'Communities Without Borders' , The Indypendent, Susan Chenelle
- Over 600 Oral Histories of Combat Veterans, From the Witness to War Foundation (non-profit)
- In the First Person - index of 2,500+ collections of international oral histories in English
- Oral history collection of combat veterans
- Oral history collections and activities, including National Life Stories, at the British Library
- Oral History in the Teaching of U.S. History
- Oral History Program, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Center for Lowell History
- Australian Centre for Oral History
- Project Jukebox, the oral history program of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks
- Testimony Project, Oral History of Mental Health Care Service Users in the UK
- Dipex, Oral History site for patients' view of care
- Refugee Stories, Oral History Site for refugee's to London stories
- StoryCorps, American oral history project, NPR broadcasts, with over 30,000 stories collected
- A rich vein of city records from Sept. 11, including more than 12,000 pages of oral histories rendered in the voices of 503 firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians
- Oral History page of ElsÅ� Pesti Egyetemi R�¡dió, Hungary with downloadable voices in Hungarian
- American Century Oral History Project at St. Andrew's Episcopal School. One of the largest pre-collegiate oral history projects and archives in the U.S.
- Canadian Military Oral History Collection at University of Victoria, Special Collections
- Oral History of the U.S. House of Representatives
- The HistoryMakers: African American Video Oral History Archive (non-profit)
- Cappel, Constance, "Odawa Language and Legends: Andrew J. Blackbird and Raymond Kiogima," Xlibris, 2006.
- Cappel, Constance, "The Smallpox Genocide of the Odawa Tribe at L'Arbre Croche, 1763: The History of a Native American People". The Edwin Mellon Press, 2007.
- http://www.firstpersonusa.org A project of citizen historians concerned with preserving the memories of ordinary Americans.
- ^ Marziali, Carl (2001-10-26) "Mr. Boder Vanishes." "This American Life."
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