Oral History Projects



Against the backdrop of the Phnom Penh’s central icon, the Independence Monument, 100 Cam Muslim youths posed together for a group photo.  It was their last stop on a program organized by the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), a non-profit research center committed to documenting Khmer Rouge atrocities.  As part of the Cham Muslim Oral History Project, students in the program participated in a writing contest.  They were asked to write about the experiences of a parent during Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979), when Khmer Rouge were in power and killed an estimated two million people.  A paper on the project is posted at:


In addition to summarizing and analyzing the essays submitted in this contest, the paper also recommends oral history as a tool for not only educating youth about genocide, but also as a way to foster closer ties between parent and child and promote healing and reconciliation in Cambodia.

The Documentation Center of Cambodia is an independent Cambodian research institute dedicated to promoting memory and justice. The Documentation Center of Cambodia shares its documents and analyses with officials, scholars, and the general public in an impartial manner, seeking to contribute to an objective history of the Democratic Kampuchea period and to promote accountability for the abuses of that period. The Documentation Center of Cambodia is not an organ of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) or any other judicial body. Visit: www.cambodiatribunal.org

Farina So, Team Leader

Cham Muslim Oral History Project
[email protected]
[email protected]




In Japan, oral history has grown more rooted. The Japan Oral History Association (JOHA) held its fifth annual meeting, on the theme of “What is Orality?” at the Japan Women’s College.  Volumes 2 and 3 of the Journal of Oral History Studies were also published.   Volume 2 included Japanese immigrants’ life stories, the Kobe earthquake victims, and reports from the women’s group.  Volume 2 was a special issue devoted to the symposium on War and Colonialism.  JOHA President A. Sakurai and Secretary J.Sakai retired after doing much hard establishing work, and T.Kobayashi of Japan Women’s college and K.Nomoto of TUFS have replaced them.  The 6th annual JOHA meeting will be held on 12-13 October 2008 at Keio University.  All are welcome, and English-language proposals are accepted).

As a whole, JOHA has more or less established itself, and the current membership of around 200 should grow in future.  An effort has been made to publicize its work, both in Japanese and in English.  JOHA orgnized a workshop last year by inviting Carol Gruck to participate.  This year it will be on “How to interpret war memories,” by S.Araragi.

Among the many new publications using oral testimonies are E.Hayashi’s ‘ A Japanese Soldier’s Accounts, a popular narrative of a Japanese soldier who remained in Indonesia after the WWII to fight for the Indonesians’ war of independence against the Dutch.  H.Shimizu’s book on the WWII traumatized soldiers who spent their all of the postwar years in mental hospitals, based on oral testimonies and analysis of their medical record, was also very widely read.  M.Nakamura’s essay on “Those who were in the Ultimate State,” including A-bomb survivors and Japanese nurses held by the Chinese force after WWII is being turned into a book.  My volume of POWs’ testimonies and reconciliation has been also published in the form of essays.  The formal report of Grips, the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, which defines ORARU HISUSOTY as interviewing “the public figure, for the people, by the trained specialists,” continues to publish oral histories of political figures, mostly from the Liberal Democratic Party.  A new project has been launched by the Institute of Electrical Engineer of Japan, of pioneers in that field.

NHK’s TV program on the Battle in Manila City, based on oral testimonies of the Philippine citizens, and Japanese and American war veterans, has won a prize.  Other TV programs of veterans testimonies that included those who were pushed into cannibalism, and also on war criminals, has gained a lot of attention.  R.Futliser of the Kansei Gakuin Uni. organized a workshop on Postwar Contemporary Societies and the Shadow of World; with the NIOD (Dutch Institute of War Documentations) , and T. Nako organized a seminar on ‘War memory and the ethical issue’ at Osaka Universty.  This occasion featured a family court case judge a a living legacy of Japanese-American history. Konan Institute of Human Sciences, which is the central institute of traumatic psychology plans to conduct a comparative study of the evacuee children’s’ experience in Japan and Germany.

Oral history has also been taken up more by the schools and by citizens’ groups.  In my area, Kurashiki Junior High School has given oral history lessons, and invited seven war veterans to share their memories.  The school also used the TV broadcasting to teach media literacy, The  Okayama Digital Archive Museum is arranging a seminar for citizens, on “how to get the torch of the war memory,” evaluating and discussing the methodology of the oral history.  It should be added that, the issue of the reliability of the oral testimonies has been much discussed since bereaved family members sued Nobel Winner Kenzaburo Oe for his accounts on the “Soldiers’ competition to kill 100 by sword asap.” Oe won the initial case, but the court went on to see whether there was a “military official order” in Okinawa, where hundreds of citizens were pushed to kill themselves in order not to become POWs.  The quality of oral testimonies was evaluated.  This is a big issue in Japan, since it relates what is written in the textbooks and taught to younger generations.

Qualitative data analysis is still required to gain the title of Social Researcher, but field work, life story, and oral history have become much more a part of  university lectures.  As a whole, O-raru-hisu-to-ri” remains a little questionable, but it certainly has gained interest since the ‘80s in this corner of the world.  I apologize that I cannot cover everything that is happening even in my county, let alone all of Asia.

Tomoyo Nakao




Oral history activities in Scotland continue to flourish.  Prominent among these currently are the Forestry Commission “Touchwood” Oral History Project, now entering its second phase following a pilot interview and training phase carried out in the past year.  A number of former foresters are recording interviews and it is hoped that the project will eventually cover all the forestry areas in Scotland. Other projects include the Isle of Gigha, in which, again, local people will carry on recording interviews following a pilot project now completed; and the Glendoe Hydroelectric Dam Construction Oral History Project which is being carried out as the dam, probably the last of its size to be built in Scotland, is completed over the coming year.

Hugo Manson




1st State Stories: Recollections of Delaware Past (http://www.1ststatestories.org) is a collaborative online exhibit and directory of oral histories gathered from collections in Delaware.  It features the stories of everyday life, work and culture in Delaware’s communities during the past century and incorporates photographs and artworks to illustrate the stories presented.  The project seeks to preserve Delawarean’s stories, experiences and ways of life.  It will also enable researchers, educators, students and the general public access to the vast array of interviews available in the First State (a name derived from Delaware being the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution).

Bethany Hacker





The Red Exilio  [The Exile Network] is a transnational and collaborative research initiative. It is coordinated by group of researchers at British, French and Spanish universities (Southampton and Glamorgan in the UK, UNED and Alicante in Spain and Toulouse and Albi in France). These researchers are interested in presenting new analytical perspectives of twentieth century European migration, as well as promoting their research as a new discipline. Common approaches and interests that network members share include the study of Spanish Republican exile and a desire to establish a comparative framework which will assist in determining the degree of similarity between twentieth century refugee movements in Europe and other types of migration.


This network was established in May 2007 within the Centre for Transnational Studies at the University of Southampton. The first event took place in early April 2008 at the University of Albi. During this conference, members presented ongoing research projects and discussed the categorization that has dominated classical studies of migration on the basis of political or economic factors. Among the projects presented in Albi, oral history figured as a key research method.   In a socio-historical analysis of Republican families exiled in France and also in an investigation into the return between 1955 and 1992 of Spanish immigrants in Britain and France. The data collected during the early stages of these projects suggests that from the perspective of motive and circumstance which led to emigration, categories of  “economic migration” and’ immigration policy  are not necessarily closed compartments, or accurately  reflect the wide variety of situations that lead to people to leave or return to their countries. Life stories demonstrate, for example, how both exiles and economic immigrants interacted, establishing ties and social networks in France during the course of their daily lives. In addition, oral sources reveal a wide range patterns involving both the initial emigration and later return, lie at the margins of the traditional economic / political dichotomy, and which might include, for example, disenchantment, social aspirations, sexuality, curiosity, quest for adventure, love, etc..

In principle, it is expected that the network’s activities will be carried out until October / November 2009. This includes the organization of an international conference to be held in early April 2009. Entitled Coming Home : Conflict and return migration in twentieth century Europe, this conference will be held at University of Southampton. (A call for papers will be circulated shortly.) Nonetheless, the long-term objective of the network is to extend the field of research as well as strengthening contacts with scholars in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Through establishing these contacts, it is hoped that a better understanding of migration processes relating to both the transatlantic dimension and the European East-West dynamic.

Scott Soo and Alicia Pozo-Gutierrez



The My Brighton and Hove Community Heritage Web site, based on memories of local people, at www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk,  has been running for 8 years, after its launch as part of Brighton’s Millennium celebration in 2000.  Run entirely by volunteers and designed by Web site company www.communitysites.co.uk, the site has won awards for the Best Community site and the Best Small Museum site.


My Brighton and Hove collects photos, memories, knowledge and views of the city, past and present. It has grown to nearly 9,000 pages, receives 1000 visitors a day, and receives dozens of new online contributions from the public each week.  In partnership with the East Sussex Record Office, it is currently in search of letters, diaries and other personal papers connected with the city for the Letter in the Attic project (see www.letterintheattic.org ).

The site was originally inspired by a local history exhibit in Brighton Museum called “My Brighton.” The My Brighton and Hove Web site is now one of the projects run by Brighton’s not-for-profit community history publisher, QueenSpark Books.

The site has won two awards in an international competition

Jack Latimer


The project’s website explains that: “We are using the method of ‘walking alongside’ people to document their growing up, relationships, having children, living in families and growing older. We are interested in how these experiences impact on people’s well-being and life chances. We also want to explore what this means for the long term resourcing of families.  In depth interviews, oral narratives, photographs and other visual documents are being collected for the Timescapes archive. Current and future generations of researchers will be able to reuse this resource. The archive offers exciting possibilities for re-searching data through time and across the generations.”


Website: http://www.wildfilmhistory.org/index.php