A history is contested when many different sides claim they have the truth of what happened or what it might mean to us today. By gathering the voices, experiences, and memories of narrators with different points of view and different perspectives, we gain insights into what is contested, controversial, and conflicted, and might be able to move beyond it.  

How do we create a pool of narrators who represent diverse perspectives? How do we avoid the dominance of one perspective over the others? How do we ensure our research reflects these multiple perspectives? 


  • Learn how to create a diverse narrator pool to represent the multiple perspectives of a contested history

Time and Materials

90 mins 

  • Flip chart papers
  • Markers (different colors)


Warm-up (10 minutes): 

We ask the participants to suggest ideas on how to use an Oral History research project to reflect the multiperspectivity of a contested history, such as the history of the Civil War in Lebanon (1975-1990). 

We ask the participants to identify classifications of possible narrators to ensure a representative sample of a wide range of different voices, perspectives, and experiences. We write down possible classifications on flip chart paper. 

Guiding Questions:

  • How can we ensure that we reach the widest possible range of perspectives across the spectrum?
  • If we want a diversity of perspectives, or a representative sample of perspectives, what types of narrators do we need to include in our pool? 


Group Work (40 minutes):

The participants return to the same groups they formed in session Building Blocks of a Research Project, if they completed this session, or we form 3-4 groups who will work together.  

Each group takes a copy of Handout 20: Imaginary Narrators Pool, and goes through the exercise. 

Each group prepares a flip chart paper with their topic, research question (see facilitator notes), and suggested pool of narrators. They put their flip chart paper on the wall when finished.


Group Presentations (20 minutes):

We invite the participants to walk through the gallery displaying their work. Each group takes 5 minutes to present the narrators they would seek to ensure multi-perspectivity in their project. 


Plenary Discussion (20 minutes):

We then take time to discuss the participants’ group work and our learnings.

Guiding Questions:

  • What are your reflections from the group work and the presentations? 
  • How does creating a diverse pool of narrators support multi-perspectivity?
  • If all narrators share the same perspective, how do you find other narrators? 
  • What more can we understand about Oral History after this exercise?

Notes and Tips for the Facilitator

  • This session uses the Civil War in Lebanon (1975-1990) as a case study, but this example can easily be replaced and adapted to apply to a different context. 
  • It is important to note that the final selection of narrators is decided on only after the pre-interview meeting (see Session Pre-Interview Meeting). However, in the context of contested history, this preliminary mapping of a diverse group of narrators representing multiple perspectives is crucial when planning an Oral History research project to reflect the nature of what is contested. Though our choice of  topic and research question may be based on what kind of narrators we have access to,  this should not prevent us from challenging ourselves to include as diverse a selection as possible. 
  • If you are working on a research project on contested history, it’s important to have a pool of narrators that represent different perspectives from the different sides of the contested history.
  • If your group does not work on a research project together, the groups can set a subject, topic and question at the beginning of the group work.
  • This session relates to session Building Blocks of a Research Project, Formulating a Research Question, Narrator Selection.

Sources and Further Reading