As mentioned in an earlier post, the value of oral history cannot be denied. It’s an excellent resource that reminds us that history is about people; individual memories are essential to learning about the past. One way of returning the testimony to the community from whence it came is to display the interview on the Internet. Some historians are wary of the Internet, for many websites are incomplete in regards to interviewee permission and contextualising the interview itself. Others need to be properly protected against illegal downloading. However, historian Donald Ritchie hits the nail on the head when he argues that dismissing the Internet will result in the subject being “ignored by the next generation of researchers.” Others such as Michael Frisch have pointed to the renewed importance of the voice in oral history – it can be heard or watched in video with ease on the Internet. New technology also allows us to download interviews on our phones, iPods, and personal computers. Oral history on the Internet creates a permanent location that is publicly available and accessible to all. This would mean a very successful bridge between oral, public and academic history.
Check out the links below for oral history on the Internet, ranging from exhibitions to television programmes:
http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/ - the Ken Burns’ series Prohibition includes oral interviews, some of which are displayed on this site. There is also a section called “Share your stories”, inviting the audience to post their own memories of the era.
http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections/oralhistory/ - The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website includes oral testimonies from the survivors.
http://www.thecornershopproject.co.uk/oral_history.html - English Heritage and Oral history combine for the Corner Shop Project, a history of the British high street since 1950.