Oral History of Grunge

Even if the term grunge makes you cringe you’ll love Mark Yarm’s 550-plus pages of good rock-’n’-roll storytelling called Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge.  This book shows oral history can be used for modern themes and is published to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s debut Ten—two great albums that forever changed rock music. The article reviews the book and also examines the history and merits of using oral history. Read the full article here.

Jacqueline Kennedy Oral History

A seven-part interview conducted in early 1964 — one of only three that Mrs. Kennedy gave after President Kennedy’s assassination — is being published as a book and an audio recording. In it, the young widow speaks with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the historian and Kennedy aide, about her husband’s presidency, their marriage and her role in his political life. They do not discuss his death. The eight and a half hours of interviews had been kept private at the request of Mrs. Kennedy, who never spoke publicly about those years again before she died in 1994.  Includes audio excerpts. For full story click here.

Witness to Apocalypse

Days after the 9/11 attacks, researchers at the Columbia Center for Oral History began asking New Yorkers to describe their experience of the most harrowing day in the city’s history.  The account, tells the story of the fall of the WTC moment by moment and person by person and is drawn from the more than 600 interviews collected in the September 11, 2001 Oral History Project.  For this comprehensive account click here.


Marginalising Oral History

This article is looking at the oral history of the Partition of India, but is also interesting as it addresses the broader issue of the value of oral history as part of general history.  Despite its utility in comprehending tragic events such as the Partition of India, oral history keeps getting rebuffed for its ‘soft’ and ‘subjective’ approach.  Scepticism on the merits of oral history abound, with advocates of the conventional form often looking down upon it as a ‘soft’ approach. One of the chief complaints levelled at oral history is that the statements obtained through interviews are highly subjective, and hence have the potential to create a history far less accurate. They argue that during the recollection of personal or collective memories, certain memories that create ambiguities, and do not suit the broader narrative goals, are often conveniently purged or reshaped, consciously or subconsciously, through a kind of ‘selective amnesia’.  Read full article here.

Gay Men in the American Military

As “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” comes to an end, Chris Heath interviewed dozens of gay servicemen from the past and present to find out what life was really like as America’s military struggled with its last great identity crisis.  On September 20, 2011 a serviceman’s sexuality will no longer be grounds for dismissal from the U.S. Armed forces. These are the voices explaining what it has been like to be a gay man in the American military over the previous seventy or so years, from World War II veterans in their late eighties to young servicemen on active duty.  For full story click here.

StoryCorps Founder Shares His Story

Dave Isay is founder of StoryCorps, the largest American oral history project, and author of “Listening is an Act of Love” and “Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps,” both compilations of thousands of interview manuscripts. Many of these everyday stories can also be heard weekly on National Public Radio stations in America. Isay said “The StoryCorps project is about listening and encouraging us to listen. It’s also a generous act to ask someone who they are and what their lives are about … kindness, courage and the struggle of people living the fullest life possible at its best … authentic stories honoring people who live.”  For full story click here.

India collects stories of Independence Movement

Arise Free India (AFI) a non-profit trust, is recording interviews with common people who participated in India’s freedom struggle, with an aim to prepare an oral archive of India’s Independence movement.  These oral histories are put on to the trust’s web site where they can be heard.  For full story click here

Ordinary People Tell the real Singapore Story

There are millions of stories from Singapore’s past – real-life moments that happened long, long ago, now in the Oral History Centre at the city’s National Archives.  It is Singapore’s alternative history. These are the kind of stories that you won’t find in the history books. Since its inception in 1979, almost 4,000 people – from rickshaw pullers to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew – have submitted their own personal accounts on tape for the archives. The centre has more than 18,000 hours of precious material.  It is history brought to life through the spoken word.  For the full story click here.

1947 Partition Archive Preserves Traumatic Past

A new Berkeley-based non-profit group is collecting oral histories in video and audio format from those affected by the Partition of British India, the largest forced migration in human history.  14.5 million people were displaced in the violent partition of British India that split the country into Pakistan and India on August 15, 1947. What should have been a cause for celebration — independence from nearly a century of British rule — quickly turned into a nightmare for millions who were forced to migrate across the new border. Between 500,000 and 2 million people died in the process due to mob violence and extremists on both sides, although exact numbers are not known. For full story click here.