This my second report to IOHA members and other readers of the IOHA newsletter. In my first report in October 2006 I noted that the next (and 15th) International Oral History Conference would be held at the University of Guadalajara in September 2008. Since my last report IOHA Council members and colleagues at the University of Guadalajara and in the Mexican Oral History Association (co-sponsors of the conference) have been busy with conference preparations. The conference website and Call for Papers is now available on line (at www.congresoioha2008.cucsh.udg.mx). I urge you to propose a paper or organise a thematic panel at the conference, and to start saving now towards your attendance (conference and accommodation costs will be very reasonable, but international flights to Mexico are not cheap). We are planning oral history training master classes that will precede the main conference, and the conference website includes information about exciting tourist opportunities in and around Guadalajara and Mexico–so you should be able to combine business and pleasure.
In 2002, IOHA established a Scholarship Fund to enable oral historians without institutional support, especially those from developing and under-represented regions and countries, to participate and present their work in this professionally important biennial event. In 2004, scholarship recipients came to the IOHA conference in Rome from Argentina, Bosnia, Congo, Gambia, the Philippines, Russia, the Ukraine, Uruguay, and Zimbabwe. In 2006, they came to Sydney from Argentina, Chile, China (Hong Kong), Guatemala/Mexico, India, Samoa, the Ukraine, and Zimbabwe. We have begun fund-raising towards the Scholarship Fund that will support attendance at the Guadalajara conference. As in 2004 and 2006 I have asked the larger, well-established national oral history associations (US, UK, Brazil and Australia) to contribute to this fund, and we are currently revising the section on the IOHA website that invites donations from individuals. In 2006 anonymous individual donations supported several scholarship holders –please do contact me if you are interested in making such a donation for 2008. I have also made a funding bid to a Dutch funding body for a contribution to the scholarship fund. In total IOHA aims to offer up to 16 scholarships for the 2008 conference, and to support the travel and registration costs of scholarship recipients.
Guadalajara will be the sixth international conference since IOHA was formally constituted in Goteborg in 1996, and by moving to North America IOHA completes a global cycle that has taken the conference to each of six geographical regions of the world: South America (Rio de Janeiro in 1998), Asia (Istanbul 2000), Africa (Pietermaritzburg 2002), Europe (Rome 2004), and Oceania (Sydney 2006). A primary aim of IOHA is to support and energize an international dialogue between oral historians. It is tremendously exciting to learn from colleagues who are conducting oral history projects on the other side of the world, to realise that we often have common aims and approaches but also to learn from our differences. Oral history is both an intimate encounter and a global conversation. By moving our conferences around the globe we involve oral historians from many different countries in that conversation, and we learn about the distinctive features of oral history in different regions.
The Mexican Oral History Association Oral History Association is a young national association and IOHA is delighted to support its activities by co-hosting our conference in Mexico. Oral history is developing in many other parts of the world. In recent months IOHA members have helped to create new national oral history associations in several countries, including Ukraine (email Gelanida Grinchenko at [email protected]) and the Czech Republic (email Miroslav Vanek at [email protected]). The long-standing Canadian Oral History Association has reinvigorated itself and has a new website (www.canoha.ca), and in November 2007 the Institute of History at Jagiellonian University in the Polish city of Krakov is hosting a conference about oral history in eastern and central Europe (email Marta Kurkowska at [email protected]). From Palestine, Sonia Nimr at the Oral History Centre in Berzeit ([email protected]) has reported that she hopes to run a panel at the Guadalajara conference featuring the work of oral historians in the Arab world. These are exciting developments, and IOHA aims to continue to support international oral history developments by taking our 2010 and 2012 conferences to new countries: to that end we have begun initial discussions with oral history colleagues in the Czech Republic, Singapore, Canada and Japan (another relatively new national oral history association). I welcome communication from oral history associations in other parts of the world that might be interested in hosting a future IOHA conference.
The last IOHA conference in Sydney featured a splendid plenary session about the history of the international oral history movement, chaired by Don Ritchie and with contributions from oral history pioneers Marieta de Moraes Ferreira, Alexander von Plato, Sandro Portelli and Ron Grele. I am pleased to say that their papers will be published in a future issue of the IOHA journal Words and Silences, and that we are investigating the option of placing an audio recording of the session on the IOHA website. Whilst on the topic of Words and Silences, I must apologize for and explain the delay in production and distribution of our annual journal. Words and Silences is produced by volunteers in Mexico City and they have experienced significant production difficulties, which have now been overcome. The 2005 issue should be in the post very soon; the 2006 is currently being edited; and contents for the 2007 issue (which will include the 2006 papers about the history of the international oral history movement) are confirmed. Words and Silences aims to be back on schedule by the end of 2007.
At the next IOHA Council on-line meeting in May 2007, among other items for discussion will be the IOHA website. Our website is generously hosted by oral historians led by former IOHA President Marieta de Moraes Ferreira at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Brazil. The IOHA newsletter will continue to be published on the website, and we hope to develop more links and other interactive and audio features, perhaps involving the special interest groups established at the Sydney conference. We have some funds available to invest in the website, and we recognise that it is an essential medium for communication with IOHA members and other oral historians around the world.
Finally, I thought I should let you know that my own national base will be changing in coming months. Though I grew up in Australia, for the last 24 years I have lived and worked as an oral historian in England where I have been privileged to co-edit the British journal Oral History and have learnt a huge amount from British oral history colleagues–and from local people who shared their life stories on and off the record. In August 2007 I am returning (with my English family) to Australia, where I’m excited to take up a post as Professor of History and Director of the Institute of Public History at Monash University in Melbourne, my original home town. In an oral history book about British migrants in Australia I recently wrote that “return is never easy and places of the heart rarely stay the same”–so now it’s time for me to put theory into practice! Until mid-August my email address is [email protected]; after that please contact me at [email protected]
Al Thomson [email protected]