Our Oral History programme

Remembering what it was like to live and work round here....

Oral History at Three Rivers Museum of Local History

Oral History is first hand evidence of the past – and of the present, which will be the past by tomorrow.

But to be of use in future, it needs to be recorded, documented and archived to the right standards, so that it can be made accessible to researchers later. And it needs to be used, now and in future, to help understand what it was like to live and work round here - our area, buildings and people.

Oral history can cover events of national and international importance, as well as famous people. At Three Rivers Museum we’re interested in local stories and local people.

You can join the museum Oral History team

  • as an interviewer
  • as an editor
  • as a transcriber

Or you can contribute your story!

Everyone has a story – and their Memories Matter.

The aim of the oral history recorded interview is, of course, to record a story. It might be about the past, but history is being made now, so a record of how things are now is an important contribution to what those who come after us will want to know. The Three Rivers oral historian records ‘what it’s like to live and work round here’ – now as much as in the past.

We seek to capture the colour behind that story, and to allow the interviewee (the story teller) to present it. It may or may not be fully accurate: the job of the interviewer is to capture it, and to encourage the interviewee to make the story as full as it can be. Analysis comes later.

We can provide training to people who would like to be interviewers - there’s a particular style of doing this to make it proper oral history, which is different from ‘reminiscences’, conversations or vox pop.

And the material has to be ordered and made available in various forms, perhaps as podcasts. So we also need editors, who will often be interviewers themselves.

And the hard-copy record is also important: so we need transcribers as well.

We expect to do this properly and formally, so that we can use our oral history for research and information. We usually take interviews in support of defined projects, but people's general memories also have a place. So we need to proceed quite formally, and ask our interviewees first to sign a Participation Agreement, and then, after the interview, a Recording Agreement by which we obtain your permission to actually use what you've said.

This is necessary to make sure we comply with both GDPR and copyright requirements, and so we follow the guidance of both the Oral History Society and the British Library.

We'll keep both the digital recordings and their transcriptions safe as part of the museum's collection, available (subject to your permission) for research, reference and information. We will often include clips in the digital collection on the digital kiosk in the museum, and occasionally on this website.

For more information, and to express your interest, contact us, or e-mail [email protected]

Some Questions:

Memories aren’t always complete. How do you deal with that?

No single record is a complete history, but any can make a valid contribution to a set. So we welcome anyone willing to be interviewed, and assess accuracy later.

Who will we interview?

We normally record as part of a particular project, so we’ll record anyone able to contribute to that project. Some people have experiences which demand a special, one-off interview! There are constraints on interviewing people under 18, however.

I’m under 18 – can I be an interviewer?

Yes, but only within a school setting. We’d be happy to contribute to a school project.

Do I have to have special equipment?

No. We do have simple specialist recorders, and many interviewers like to have their own, but a smart phone is quite adequate for most purposes.

How do we safeguard our subjects’ information?

Two levels of consent are required of all interviewees. The first is before the recording, to confirm that the interviewee is informed and is willing to take part: and the second comes after the recording, to confirm that the interviewee is content for the recording to be used for the agreed purposes. Personal details associated with the recordings are handled as required by GDPR.

How do we keep the recordings safe and accessible?

We have a dedicated secure ‘cloud’ account, and we also back up our material to a hard drive which is kept securely by one of our team. Personal details are not kept in the same location as the material.

How do we control access to them?

We will give access to the Cloud to researchers whose credentials we can check. If we are not satisfied, we won’t give access.

We will, however, also select parts of interviews to illustrate projects, and present them anonymously through our digital kiosk in the museum. Some will also be presented through our website, accessing the secure cloud storage. If it proves necessary to include identification details, separate permission will be sought.