Oral History in Portugal: news of the network’s first meeting


The first meeting of the Oral History Network (HOPER) took place in Lisbon, on December 13th, 14th and 15th of 2012. The network, launched early 2012, aims to facilitate contacts and discussion between those who recognize that oral history is a necessary resource for the projects they develop. The establishment of the network began with an email invitation for membership. The overwhelming number of responses received in Portugal showed that oral history is being widely used in projects conducted in different disciplines and with diverse goals. However, in the absence of an association, a public archive centre or any other body to promote communication among enthusiasts, contacts and discussions have been difficult. Dozens of emails were received, presenting initiatives, clarifying doubts, problems or making suggestions, which showed the need to promote a meeting that would allow further discussion on the various experiences related to oral history.

At the first HOPER meeting, held at the Institute of Social Sciences (University of Lisbon) and the Institute of Contemporary History (Faculty of Human and Social Sciences of the New University of Lisbon), over 30 communications were discussed. The presentations were framed in sessions about: the oral history applied to the knowledge of institutions’ functioning; the experiences of resistance and clandestinity, the routines of everyday life; the discourses, the practices and labour sociabilities, the establishment of archives and the conditions of collection, conservation and access to sources. This last topic deserved two sessions, which allowed the presentation of various local projects as well as the assessment on how the absence of a policy for the oral history archives in Portugal is leading to the scattering and degradation of many of the heritage already collected.

There were two invited speakers in the meeting: Ângela de Castro Gomes (Documentation Centre of Contemporary History, Foundation Getúlio Vargas, Brazil), who spoke about “Analogous work to slavery in Brazil: present times and uses from the past”, and Pilar Dominguez Prats (Universidad Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain), who presented a paper entitled ‘The life stories about the history of the Spanish republican exile’. The ebook “Ouvi dizer popular?” (free translation: “Have I heard popular?”) was also presented, as well as “The use of oral history in the study of popular classes in Portugal”, which resulted from a meeting held in September 2011 and is published by the Popular University of Porto.

This meeting in Portugal showed that oral history is being used not only for the purposes of academic research, but also in numerous projects of pedagogical character and preservation of the material and immaterial heritage. There is a growing interest in Portugal on the collection and use of oral history and HOPER seeks to promote both an internal debate and its inclusion in the international discussion. More information about the activities of the network can be requested at [email protected].

Bruno Monteiro

Dulce Freire

Monica Truninger

Silvia Correia

Susana Durão