From Page to Mouth

Oral History Projects



Institutional Project: “Bicentennial: Man transforming spaces and modifying the environment”.
In this year of the Bicentennial of the May Revolution, it is essential to encourage our students and the general community at large to think about and seek a better country with an identity – one that respects diversity – and above all, one with a common future project.

For this reason, the E.P.N°3 “Mariano Moreno”, in Los Toldos, Province de Bs. As. is undertaking this project.

The central objective of this project is raise awareness among students of the territorial and societal transformations that have occurred in their local area over the past two hundred years. To effectively achieve this,  it is important to begin with an analysis which draws from aspects of their own daily lives, such as rural domain, families, crops and applied technologies, maintenance and/or destruction of the environment, urban environment, business life, transportation or production cycles.

To begin, there will be an initial training session for the whole educational community. It will be delivered as a seminar on oral history. The seminar will be coordinated by Professor Laura Benadiba, Director of the Oral History Program from the ORT School, and will take place on 23 April 2010. Children and teachers will be presented with the tools to reconstruct the past using testimonies of different subjects that focus on lines of research defined by the project.

The outcome will be a parade through the past and the present which will culminate at the school where a video will be projected. The video will show a number of the interviews and visits received. There will also be dances, songs and dramatizations, all of which will be infused with signs derived from the research conducted with oral sources which the children themselves have realized throughout the project.

All of this will be done in conjunction with a country school: the E.P.N°10, with the objective of extending the project little by little to other regions.

Laura Benadiba | [email protected]


The Oral Archives of the French Agency for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless People (the Agency)

A campaign to collect filmed testimonials of personnel of the French Agency for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless People has been made possible by the combined efforts of three French institutions. The project includes approximately thirty testimonies from agency members. This corpus has been selected using the following criteria: different generations and sexes; distintive levels of responsability; the national identity of the candidates for asylum which were dealt with by each member of the personnel.

The agency is a public organism of civil status. It has financial and administrative autonomy, with an exclusive ability to speak out about the status of refugees and stateless people. It is also responsable for the adminstrative protection of refugees. It is true that a study based on research in the administrative archives can, without doubt, provide detailed understanding about aspects of the institution’s internal functioning. However, oral interviews of personnel employed at the time of its creation in 1952, or during the different periods of transformation, will undoubtedly add a large quantity of information not made available in written documentary sources. A study based on oral testimonials can provide insight into things like the logic, practice and method of work practices, amongst many other themes of inquiry. An oral history study also allows us to understand the peculiarities of an institution not well known. However, it is important to point out that both documentary and oral sources are complementary and mutually beneficial for providing a deeper understanding.

It was with this perspective that the historian Aline Angoustures, upon joining the Agency in 2007, launched this oral sourcing project with the support of the organization’s management. The goal was to recover the memory of an institution that plays a preponderant role in the French politics of asylum; an organization which has undergone many changes over the years. The testimonies provided by its agents allow us to recover an important part of the memory about the institution’s gestation period. Without those testimonies, that memory would begin to progressively fade across the collective memory. To realize this objective, the Agency called upon the collaborative input of two other organizations that have special knowledge regarding the production, treatment and conservation of oral archives.

The Library of Contemporary International Documentation (Bibliothèque de documentation internationale contemporaine – BDIC), known by contemporary historians around the world, is a library and museum specializing in international relations. It is linked to the University of West Paris, Nanterre, and is home to an important collection concerning exile and immigration. The BDIC’s audiovisual unit, created in 1995, carries out the mission of producing oral sources. It relies on the support of a scientific advisory body. These documents, which are designed for research purposes and created as complements to the private archival base, are inventoried, catalogued, conserved and valorized through different university activities. They are made available to the general public.

In addition, the Agency has relied on the Archives of the Local Administration of Val de Marne (los Archivos departamentales de Val de Marne) for logistical assistance and its depth of experience in audiovisual archives ( This local governmental institution is dedicacted to the collection, classification, preservation and publication of all documents produced by the administrative and judicial services in its local area. It initiated a campaign about the Val de Marne’s migration experience at the same time as the Agency’s project got underway.

In this context, at the beginning of 2009 the current staff of the Agency began to compile a list of witnesses and prepare the foundational information for a process of collecting testimonies. Following this, a questionnaire, or schedule of interviews, was prepared. Subsequently, the interviews were conducted by Aline Angoustures and Laurence Bourgade (an archivist with the Val de Marne local administration). As a result of that work, thirteen interviews have been digitalized and deposited at the audiovisual service of the BDIC. There, the interviews will be viewed and indexing undertaken in preparation for the release of a chronological and thematic catalogue for the library and its associates.

This project has allowed us to share an interesting experience in terms of its content and in terms of the practical experience of creating a filmed archive. We have observed the methods of work concerning the different steps of production and also the processes of treating the database. We have also observed the processes of data valorization in development and how it is made available for consultation in the archive and library.

With this initial experience we can say that the testimonies do help us to achieve a better understanding and make it possible to conduct a deeper analysis of the continuities and ruptures that marked the beginnings of the Agency.  In the postwar world of 1952, the Agency was the successor of other national institutions. Those same institutions were the outgrowths of work done by consulates, principally in the 1920s that, in turn, were heir to other international organizations. These issues related to the origins of the institution have great consequences. It allows us to identity the reasons for the significant and symbolic number of refugees and refugee children within the staff. Through the stories we observe the strong involvement of the agents with their assigned mission. We also see the relationships that they established with the institution; an unusual institution in the context of the French administration. With this point of view, the project, along with the opening archives for written documentation, the campaign is to enrich the open perspectives in the field of immigration policy in France in the twentieth century.

Study Seminar regarding the Archives of Oral Sources of the French Agency for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless People (Agency)

The BDIC and the Agency are organizing a day long study session with the aim of presenting the first round of results of their collaborative project, in addition to providing an insight into the methodologies that were employed.

Date: Thursday, 30 September 2010, 9:30 – 17:00.
Place: Conference Room, Building B, University of West Paris, Nanterre, La Defence.
Address: 200, rue de la République, 92000 Nanterre, Hauts-de-Seine.

Manager of the History Project and archival use, OFPRA
Rosa OMOS 
Manager of the Audiovisual Service, BDIC

Legend of Photos:
OFPRA Archives/don de Ms Massat

Jacqueline Massat in 1945: a public administrator for the United Nations’ Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), in Germany. She later became the Eligibility Officer for the International Refugee Organization (IRO). In 1952, she joined OFPRA, where she held the post of Director of Litigation until 1986.



Online Database of Galician Victims of the Civil War and the Francoist Repression.

This project aims to build a Web space for researchers concerned with recovering the memory of Francoist repression. The Web resource is also directed at families and other people with an interest in this recovery process. The digital platform collects the names of more than eleven thousand victims of the repression in Galicia. The data collection covers the Civil War period (1936 – 1939) and includes a register concerning each victim. The Web offers a number of different research tools which will allow researchers to approach the interpretation of the network results from multiple perspectives.

The information deposited in the database corresponds to the provisional results of research conducted by the Inter-University Research Project, entitled “Names and Voices”.  It also intersects with available sources.

The database of victims is open for consultation at: The webpage was created by the team that carried out the “Names and Voices” project, as a way of communicating, disseminating and interpreting the project’s outcomes. It was done to give users of the Website closer access to the content. In the near future the Website will be updated, allowing internet users to interact and to add their own interpretations and perspectives. Internet tools such as blogs will be used, thus enriching even further the sites user value.

These resources ( and have been developed and coordinated by the Inter-University Research Project, “Names and Voices”, a team made up of a large number of researchers from three Galician universities. The project is headed by Dr. Lourenzo Fernández Prieto, Department of Contemporary History, USC. The project grew out of a collaborative agreement with the Department of Culture and Tourism to produce a study of Francoist repression during the civil war in Galicia.

Chus Martínez | [email protected]