Episode 61 : Difference of Life Story and Oral History

by Ian · 3 comments

in Oral History, Podcast

What we can learn from Oral History and how we travel our own path.


Oral history and storytelling bookend what we’re doing here at Create Your Life Story with our family Life Stories. Oral history is academic and storytelling is theatric.We’re not exactly in either camp but we can learn a great deal from these disciplines and this episode is about what I noticed in recently attending the Oral History Association of Australia national conference in Melbourne.

Some of the things I noticed Oral Historians have a strong interest in, that differs from us are:

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Marvelous Melbourne

  • Copyright and attribution
  • Ethics
  • Procedure
  • Written context

They are after all approaching oral history with a strong history agenda, often involved with other organisations. These are fundamental differences from most people interested in family history and the gathering of individual stories for personal and family reasons. This enables us to have the agility to design our Life Stories to suit whatever we choose without the need to answer to anyone.

I did see one example of the power of using the different technologies to tell stories in non-traditional ways using artistic style in The South Sydney Project but most of interest was of a more traditional style.

Individual centric rather to history centric

It became clear to me that this larger community or societal history context, is what gives people the reason to want to record other people’s stories and the reason for the existence of oral history. This is the same for our family history life stories which will eventually be mined for information but we’re approaching this information from the opposite direction to oral historians.

Oral historians understand the topic and use the individual to find the stories of that topic. In family Life Stories we’re interested in the individual first, then along the way we gather information to possibly flush out the stories of the cultural topics, giving them a personal context.

We may end up in the same place of personalising major themes but these approaches are coming at history from opposite directions. This is the fundamental difference between traditional oral history and family history. We’re interested in the individual first and their stories only because we personally know them.

If you’re an Oral Historian what are you thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

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