Part IV. Making histories, Introduction

Robert Perks, Alistair Thomson

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OVER THE PAST DECADE , the digital revolution has transformed how
we collect, archive, and present oral history in a wide variety of ‘public history’
settings: from archives and libraries to publications and local community groups,
from theatres and schools to radio and television, from museums and galleries to
arts-based multimedia.1 The omnipresence of the Web and mobile digital devices has changed the way we engage with the world around us. Mass digitisation has liberated long-forgotten archives of analogue interviews for online access and there has been an important shift from merely showcasing audio clips to mounting entire archives on the Internet. Global users can now access thousands of interviews – audio and transcripts – anywhere, anytime at the click of a mouse and the tap of a screen. Community oral history projects organise exhibitions, a few publish books, but all now have a significant Web presence. Fortunately, the pleas of early Web-savvy oral historians to ‘provide context’ seem to have been heeded, and personal testimony, both audio and increasingly video, is now imaginatively blended and juxtaposed with transcripts, images and documents.2 ‘Oral history’ long ago joined the parlance of the popular media as a strapline for people’s history radio and television programmes, and these are also now increasingly broadcast through Web-based radio and YouTube channels, and through social media. In this section, we survey how oral testimony is being accessed, selected, edited, adapted, and presented to these new and wider audiences: the relationship between audio and text, the decisions and ethics involved, the degree to which the process is collaborative, the impact that selection and editing have on the evidence itself, and how such notions as ‘documentary’, ‘representations’ of the past, and ‘space and place’ are being challenged by new technology. We also reflect on whether the drive for access is as democratic as it appears and what impact the digital revolution is having on the interview relationship that underpins what we all do as oral historians.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oral History Reader
EditorsRobert Perks, Alistair Thomson
Place of PublicationAbingdon Oxon UK
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781315671833
ISBN (Print)9780415707329, 9780415707336
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameRoutledge Readers in History

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