Oral History Meetings



ORAL SOURCES: THEIR APPLICATION IN EDUCATION, RESEARCH AND MANAGEMENT: Eighth National Meeting and Second International Conference of Oral History, Manzana de las Luces, Buenos Aires, 3-5 October 2007


The Eighth National Meeting and the Second International Conference of Oral History was held between 3 and 5 October 2007, Manzana de las Luces, Buenos Aires.  Various institutions organized the meeting, among them the Oral History Program, the Institute of Anthropological Sciences (Pablo Pozzi, director), the Archive of Words and Images of Women, the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies of Genre (Mirta Zaida Lobato, director), and the General Direction of the Historical Institute of the City of Buenos Aires (Liliana Barela, director). The event’s general coordinator, Liliana Barela, was elected President of the Oral History Organisation of the Argentinian Republic (AHORA).

Sessions were arranged so that research work and presentations that shared common thematic threads were delivered in the same room.  Various work groups were arranged according to the topics: Work, Protest and Union Action; Political Practice and Political Parties; Conflicts and Trajectories; Neighborhood and Local Histories; Identities, Conflicts and the Recovery of the Memory; Activist Experiences, Solidarity and Exile; Education and Oral History; Theoretical and Methodological Problems; Migration and Immigration: Some Experiences; Art and Culture: Representation and Memory; Patrimony, Management and Creation of Archives.

Among the diverse themes covered, an important point arising from discussions examined how educators can give students the necessary tools to build their identity. It was agreed that oral history methodology can be a stimulus for youth.  By conducting oral history interviews, students can recover their own family history or come to know other life histories of importance to their own lives, helping them to understand the recent past of the society in which we live.

Oral history interviews reveal the motives for emigration from one place to another, and shed new light on urban history and all forms of work.  A highlight of the meeting was Josefina Cuesta discussion of “Memory and History.”  Attendance at the sessions was significant and the participants came from countries as diverse as Argentina (the largest contingent), Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic and Spain.

Finally, we had the opportunity to see El Caminarte da La vuelta a la manzana, a dramatized version of the history of Villa Gessell, a village in Pinar del Norte, Argentina. Local inhabitants, both young and old, appeared in the work. The “Caminarte” Project aims to recover the identity, memory and cultural patrimony of the region while showing how it has changed over time, working to raise the consciousness of the regions newer generations, and the visitors to the area.

María Luisa Iglesias Hernández: [email protected]





The impact of the new technologies, children’s games, Indigenous voices, museums, immigrants and refugees, trauma, revealing time, ethics, sound to lyrical print, performance, community histories, women’s stories, keeping memory alive, emotions and senses, teaching, broadcasting, memory workshops: these were some of the topics presented, exposed, discussed at the recent biennial conference of the OHAA.

Hosted by the Queensland branch of the OHAA, the conference settled by the Brisbane River. There were over 60 papers, workshops, performances, presentations. Within, between and across sessions we talked, we exchanged, we listened, we asked, we learnt.

There were performances and the explanations of performances. For those who attended the International Conference in Sydney in 2006 and watched and wondered about the performance ‘Fast Cars and Tractor Engines’ (memory triggers at http://www.urbantheatre.com.au/fastcars.html), instigators Tim Carroll and Roslyn Oades explained the form of theatre. Playback Theatre (http://www.austrategies.com.au/playback.htm) invited conference participants, as audience, to share stories and experiences.  The theatre group then replayed the shared stories through mime, movement, sound.  Oral historians experienced the loss of control as they became the narrators and as other people interpreted their stories.

There were examples of innovative uses of the new technologies, especially as a means to engage and present community histories. The Queensland Stories project of the State Library of Queensland (http://www.qldstories.slq.qld.gov.au/), for example, works with libraries and indigenous knowledge centers across the state to build skills so that community members can produce their own digital stories and have them published on the project website. (See, for example, DD_Project_Traeger.pdf).

Engaging local communities through diverse means also sits at the core of the Wilsons River Experience Walk project.  Interviews with community members, conversations and picnics on the riverside, and the commissioning of public art works have been converted to a walking trail marked by signs and stories. O the Internet you can sample some of the panels (http://engagement.scu.edu.au/story_panels.htm).  The panels and stories capture Indigenous and non-indigenous uses of the river, the social and environmental histories, the cultural significance of sites.

Indigenous histories were well represented throughout the conference.  Community based projects – the evolving Cherbourg MEMORY and PRECINCT project (http://www.rationshed.com.au/) and the North Stradbroke Island Oral History Project (redland.pdf) – emphasized the importance of community owned projects.

Al Thomson, now reclaimed by Australia, drew on his current exploration of the life stories of four British women who migrated to Australia:  photographs, audio letters, oral histories, changing gender roles, domestic life, migration, return migration, happiness, sadness, tension, self-image, survival, intimacy.  The keynote address at the OHAA Conference was presented by Gwenda Davey. Her focus was on a current research project on Australia children’s games (http://www.australian.unimelb.edu.au/CTC/). She also ranged across issues close to contemporary oral history practice: the importance of the aurality of oral history, recording the present for the future, coping with institutionally imposed ethical straightjackets, and the pervasiveness of the new technologies.

The full conference program and paper abstracts are available at http://www.ohaaqld.org.au/program.html.  Many of the sessions were videoed and, subject to the agreement of presenters, DVDs of sessions will be available for purchase.

The next OHAA conference will be in Launceston, Tasmania in 2009.

Janis Wilton [email protected]



LOOKING BACKWARDS, MOVING FORWARD: National Oral History Association of New Zealand (NOHANZ) Conference, 27-29 July 2007


The theme of the conference was “Looking Backwards, Moving Forward – The Past and Future of Oral History in New Zealand,” marking the 21st anniversary of the organization, and there was a good mixture of individual and panel presentations. The conference began with the mentors of many New Zealand oral historians, Judith Fyfe and Hugo Manson, being interviewed by Linda Evans about the early years of oral history recording in this country, and their reasons for setting up what became the nucleus of the National Library’s oral history archive. This session provided a wonderful springboard for the next two days of presentations which reflected on the past, and considered the future of oral history in this country.

The conference included two half-day workshops run by Linda Evans, Helen Frizzell and Megan Hutching. The first was on planning and managing oral history projects, and the second was for those who were running oral history training courses. The tutors felt they got as much out of them as the people who attended because the general discussion was interesting, and informed by the experiences of everyone there.

As usual, people went away with ideas for future work, email addresses scribbled on their conference programs, and insights into the theory and practice of oral history.

Megan Hutching [email protected]



ORAL HISTORY IN PANAMA, Panama City and Penonomé


The response to the call for papers for the Oral History Meeting at the University of Panama (Panama City) was met with a large turnout from many professionals from various Latin America countries and from Spain. Most conference participants gave a paper on one of the thematic panels or participated in the workshops that focused on the use of oral history in education,. The meeting took place in the Panama City and in the inland town of Penonomé.

The knowledge and experiences shared during the panel presentations and in the workshops were undoubtedly stimulating. The diversity of topics presented and methodological rigor opens history to less-favored groups who have often been left out of official narratives. For those who knew little of this specialization, questions of theory and methodology were answered. The event drew teachers and students, Panamanians and overseas visitors alike, who saw the potential for this method to enrich the national historiography and also as an opportunity to improve history’s acceptance within the student body.

The meeting also offered something else: it helped the creation of networks for research and bibliographical exchanges, fostered friendships and allowed for publications on the subject to be acquired. Unquestionably, this encounter will promote activities that change the way the history of Panama is understood and written. The University of Panama will also publish a selection of the papers as a gesture of confidence in the panelists. The chart below details the diversity of participation.

Partipants in the Oral History Meeting Celebrated in Panama, 29 January 2007




















































Source: Registration Records, Administrative Office, Department of Humanities, University of Panama.

Marcela Camargo Ríos [email protected]
Executive Secretary of the conference
Department of History, Universidad de Panamá.



Ukrainian Oral History Association Created


The Ukrainian Oral History Association was created on October 28, 2006, at the International conference ‘Oral History in Contemporary Social Sciences and Humanities: Research Theory and Practice’, held in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

The number of oral historical research projects and publications conducted over last decade in Ukraine proved that the discipline of Oral History is an upcoming and dynamic research field in the Ukrainian scholarship. In 2005-2006, a series of academic events confirmed the increasing importance and extensive use of Oral History in Ukraine. Thus, a special panel Oral History: its peculiarities and prospects in Ukraine was included into the program of the 6th Congress of International Association of Ukrainian Studies (Donetsk, Ukraine, June 2005). Two academic seminars devoted to the issues of practical use of the oral history methods in Ukrainian Studies (namely Oral History: theory and practice in Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky, and Oral History on Sociocultural change: from talking about the past to asserting the present in Lviv) took place in May 2006. First the idea of the UOHA emerged at these academic meetings. An urgent need for an interdisciplinary academic discussion on theory and methodology of Oral History as well as serious professional reflection on its application, advantages and shortcomings in post-socialist Ukraine were repeatedly voiced during those gatherings. The lively discussions and the fruitful exchange of ideas among participants testified once again to the acute necessity of establishing a formal network of Ukrainian scholars professionally interested in the institutionalization and further development of Oral History in Ukraine.

The UOHA unites scholars from different academic and professional backgrounds who subscribe to and share the philosophy, principles and methods of oral historical research. The UOHA is a network which facilitates the circulation of and access to the relevant information and resources; the UOHA promotes the oral history research amongst the scholars, students, and community activists. The UOHA is a forum which provides a professional environment for comprehensive interdisciplinary academic discussions on theory, methodology and practice of Oral History in Ukrainian scholarship. The UOHA encourages the publication of research outcomes and archives of oral historical projects. The UOHA supports and promotes the advancement of professional education in the field of oral history in Ukraine.

The UOHA partner institutions are: Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies (University of Alberta, Canada); Prairie Center of Ukrainian Heritage, University of Saskatchewan (Canada); Department of Ukrainian Studies, Kharkiv V.N. Karazin National University; Institute of Church History, Ukrainian Catholic University; Institute of Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine; Institute of Ukrainian History, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine; Institute of Ukrainian Historiography and Source Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine; Research Center of Oral History, State Pedagogical University of Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky; National University of Zaporizhya; State University of Poltava and others. Dr. Gelinada Grinchenko (Kharkiv V.N. Karazin National University, [email protected]) has been elected the President of the UOHA.

The UOHA is currently affiliated with the Kovalsky Eastern Ukrainian Institute (Kharkiv) till the time of its formal legalization. The UOHA Council Members are: Tetyana Velychko (Simferopil), Dr. Yuriy Voloshyn (Poltava), Dr. Oksana Kis (Lviv), Taras Nahayko (Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky), Dr. Natalia Suryeva (Zaporizhya), Tetyana Pastushenko (Kyiv). The UOHA has applied for membership in IOHA.

The UOHA web-site is: http://keui.univer.kharkov.ua/oral_hist.htm e-mail: [email protected] Address: Department of Ukrainian Studies, room 3-80, Kharkiv V.N. Karazin National University, Svoboda sq. 4, Kharkiv, 61077, Ukraine.


THE REVOLUTIONARY IDEAL: OHA Meets in Oakland, California, 24-28 October 2007.

The 2007 meeting of the Oral History Association took place in Oakland, California, 24-28 October. Under the theme “The Revolutionary Ideal: Transforming Community Through Oral History,” conference panels examined the multiple ways in which oral history could serve as a tool for community organizing and social change. Program chairs Norma Smith and Horacio Roque Ramírez credited the work of the OHA’s Committee on Diversity (created in 1988 as the Committee on Multiculturality) with challenging them to transform the annual meeting program so that it more fully accounted for difference, diversity, and inequality. They asserted that a “multicultural, multiracial, and multilingual vision” was fundamental for interpreting the modern world. The program therefore addressed issues that ranged from gender identity to civil rights, labor, immigration and imperialism. Throughout the program, an undercurrent dealt with power, ethics, and empowerment in oral history.

Notable among the presentations was an opening plenary session where Esther Ehrlich demonstrated how innovative technology has made possible her interviews with Neil Marcus. A performance artist, Marcus’ disabilities made it difficult for him to make himself understood verbally. Their use of simultaneous text messaging met his desire to be able to grapple with complex questions and issues.

The meeting, which also featured the OHA’s first Spanish-language session, drew strong international involvement, with presenters from Austria, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Japan, Israel and Palestine. Six of the international participants received financial support from the OHA to help them attend the conference.

IOHA Vice President Pilar Domínguez, former IOHA President Rina Benmayor, and Jessica Wiederhorn, chair of the OHA’s International Committee, meet in Oakland.

Members also paid tribute to those trailblazers who died during the past year, among them Willa Baum, the long-time director of the University of California at Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office (see http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/willa_baum.html), and Roy Rosenzweig, an innovator in the digital dissemination of oral history (an interview with him is online at http://www.ohmar.org/Interviews/int-rosenzweig.html). They remind us of the considerable personal effort and creativity that have contributed to the growth and development of oral history.

Don Ritchie [email protected]