Oral History offers us the possibility to bring different voices to historical research and thus enhances our understanding of the past. But what is the impact of this effort if no one hears the story? For this purpose to be realized, sources must be made accessible to the public by depositing them in an archive that will preserve them. Dissemination, however, is not limited to the archives, but can take on many forms involving their direct engagement with the public. Indeed, the most fruitful Oral History projects are those that give back to the public from which they originated. 

What are archives and why are they important for Oral History? What are the various forms of dissemination an Oral History research project can take? How can an Oral History project represent an intervention, possibly change the way people look at the past?  


  • Define what an archive is and introduce examples of online Oral History archives
  • Explore how Oral Histories can be used in projects that go beyond the archives and engage the public

Time and Materials

90 mins 

  • LCD projector
  • Speakers
  • Laptops
  • Flipchart papers
  • Markers (different colors)
  • Coloring pens 

Prepare flip chart papers with the questions for Group Work and Individual Thinking.


Plenary Discussion (20 min):

Let’s start the session asking participants this question: What is an Archive? We brainstorm a little bit and collect answers on a flip chart. 

To inspire the conversation a little further, let’s watch the short video What is an Archive together. 

Guiding questions:

  • What is an archive and why is it important? Why is it integral to the very definition of Oral History? 
  • Who keeps archives and what are the different kinds of archives you can imagine?
  • What do these archives share in common? 

After 10 mins, we turn to existing examples and visit some online Oral History archives together. As we explore the different archives, let’s reflect with the participants about the significance of an archive and challenges that we might face when using an archive:


Group Work (30 minutes):

Now that participants have a taste of what Oral History archives are, we want to explore how Oral Histories can be taken out of the archive into the public sphere.

Divide participants into up to 5 groups and assign each group one of the below links to explore as examples of Oral Histories reaching out to the public.

In their groups, have participants explore the project and write the following questions on the flip chart for them to answer and prepare a 5-minute presentation: 

  • What do you think the overall purpose or message of the project is? 
  • How might the Oral Histories have added multiple perspectives to the project? 
  • How do you think the Oral Histories were used in the final product?
  • What do you think the team needed to do starting from the actual recording of the interview to its transformation into the final product?
  • What can we learn from these projects? 

Oral History Projects: 


Group Presentations (25 minutes):

Each group has 5 minutes to share information about the project they explored, showing the website page, while addressing the questions above. 


Individual Thinking (15 minutes):

Taking the participants’ learning on bringing Oral History into and out of the archive, and if relevant their own Oral History projects, we ask participants to individually reflect on the below questions.

We explain to participants that we will not discuss these reflections but once done, read what others have written as food for thought.  

We hang-up the 3 papers with each question on a separate flip chat, and visible for everyone to see. We then distribute sticky notes for each participant for them to write down their thoughts:   

  • How can Oral History be used in our context? What processes could it support, where might it be lacking?
  • What role could you envisage taking?
  • Beyond the research itself, how could you imagine your findings being disseminated? Can you think of ways that the interviews and their findings could be shared with the public and carried back to the community from where they came?

Notes and Tips for the Facilitator

  • The examples above are just some of many more Oral History archives and projects. Don’t hesitate to use your own examples or search the internet for other ideas. 
  • If you have more time, feel free to spend longer on the examples of Oral History archives and projects. You could also ask participants to find their own examples. 
  • If participants don’t know a lot about archives, we can also refer to the Further Reading About Archives for more information. 
  • This session relates to Oral History in Conflict. We encourage both sessions to be done together.

Sources and Further Reading

About Archives:

“Archive.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 October 2022.

“What is an Archive?” The National Archives UK, 2013.

“Archive Research Tutorial: What is an Archive?” Mildred F. Sawyer Library, Suffolk University Boston, 17 October 2022.

“Archiving Oral History: Manual of Best Practices.” Adopted October 2019. Oral History Association (OHA), 2022.

“Introduction to Oral History.”, The Institute for Oral History, 2016, Baylor University.


Examples of Oral History archives:

“Nakba’s Oral History Interviews Listing.” PalestineRemembered.

“Palestinian Oral History Archive.” AUB University Libraries, American University of Beirut (AUB), 2019.

“Interactive Map, Palestinian Oral History Archive.” AUB University Libraries,  American University of Beirut (AUB), 2019.

“Oral History Archives.” Columbia University Libraries, Columbia University.

“Oral Narratives of the Residents of Karantina.” Digital Archives. February 28, 2022. Beirut Urban Lab. American University of Beirut (AUB).

“Guide to the Faris and Yamna Naff Arab American Collection.” Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives, Smithsonian Institution, 2022. 

“Oral History.” Collection Guides, The British Library.

“Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History.” University of Kentucky Libraries, University of Kentucky.


Example of Oral History projects:

Raby, Sam. “A Visualization of Four Syrian Refugees’ Narratives of Displacement.” Placing Oral Histories, July 2017.

“Unpacked: Refugee Baggage.” Mohamad Hafez, 2020-2021.

Mansky, Jacky. “This Haunting Exhibition Unearths the Story of Syria’s Slain.” Smithsonian Magazine, 11 April 2016.

Boyd, Douglas. “Survey of Oral History Podcasts.” Digital Omnium, 30 November 2016.

“National Park Service Oral History.” Apple Podcasts Preview, 2022.

Tawil, Anthony and Cédric Kayem. “Maabar, The Podcast.Maabar Podcast, 2022.

Hoxha, Urtina. “Those who drown cling to foam.” Intern, 2020.

“Nowhere Line: Voices from Manus Island.” Directed by Lukas Schrank. Visitor Studio, 9 August 2015.