Oral Cultures and Histories

 An oral culture is a culture that is passed from generation to generation through stories, songs, dances, and other non-textual forms.  Historically, many indigenous peoples did not have a written way to pass culture to the next generation, and it was the job of the elders in the community to pass the stories along.  Because many of these traditions can’t be put into words, a digital library is an excellent way to preserve these histories.  Recordings of songs and stories can now be viewed and shared with the entire world in their original non-textual forms.  A historic song and dance performed by a Native American tribe has a much deeper meaning when it can be seen and heard, rather than simply read about.  Digital libraries can help share a wide variety of cultural aspects that have never been be shared before because some cultural aspects will never be tangible.

Digital libraries are also saving the history of the future as well.  Currently, there are many projects that aim to collect oral histories from today’s events and cultures so they can be preserved for future generations.  Digital oral history collections can help libraries, archives, and museums reach out to their users and share the rich cultures of the past and the present.



Coombes, J. (2009). Talking art and drawing words: paper and oral history collections in the
                      national gallery of australia's research library. Australian Academic and Research Libraries, 40(4).

                       This paper discusses the need for and benefits of providing access to oral history collections
                       in order  to  preserve culture.  The author highlights the National Gallery of Australia’s
                       James Gleeson oral history collection as well as provides examples of related collections.

Daniels, C. (2009). Providing online access to oral histories: a case study. OCLC Systems &
                Services, 25(3), 175-185. doi:10.1108/10650750910982566.

                      This article outlines the processes that libraries and archives can utilize for making oral histories
                      available online.  The author discusses the legal, ethical, and technical issues that must be examined
                      when providing online access to oral cultures and histories.  The article encourages libraries and archives
                      to provide online access through practical models.

Eynon, B. (1999). Oral history and the new century. Oral History Review, 26(2), 16. Retrieved
              from Academic Search Complete database.

                  This article provides the reader with ideas about the benefits of digital technologies for oral histories
                  as well as a list of examples of existing oral histories online. The article also discusses the amount of
                  labor and technical knowledge that is required for a library or archive to create an online oral history collection.

Grimsley, R.L., & Wynne, S.C. (2009). Creating access to oral histories in academic libraries.
                 College and Undergraduate Libraries, 16(4), doi: 10.1080/10691310903355903.

                     This article provides the reader with policies and procedures for collecting, acquiring, managing, and
                     providing access to oral histories in academic libraries. The authors created their guidelines from
                     examples used at Columbus State University.  The article also discusses many of the issues involved
                     in creating a digital oral history collection as well as some solutions to these problems.

LaGuardia, C. (2004). ORAL HISTORY ONLINE. Library Journal, 129(10), 39-40. Retrieved
                   from Academic Search Complete database.

                        This article provides information on the index Oral History Online and the many different types of oral
                        histories that can be accessed through it.  The author discusses the contents and collections as well
                        as the pros and cons of the product.

Stevens, K., & Latham, B. (2009). Giving voice to the past: digitizing oral history. OCLC
                Systems & Services, 25(3), 212-220. doi:10.1108/10650750910982593.

                    This article discusses the processes and procedures that were employed by the Jacksonville State
                    University’s Houston Cole Library for building a digital oral history collection.  The paper highlights the
                    designs, methodologies, and approaches that the library used to acquire, digitize, create metatdata, and
                    make accessible the collection.

Oral History Digital Libraries

Nevada Test Site Oral History Project


Libraries, UNLV. (2008). Nevada test site oral history
        project. Retrieved from  http://digital.library.unlv.edu/ntsohp/

           This digital collection provides users with an array of
           oral histories from people associated with the Nevada Test
           Site and relating to U.S. Cold  War nuclear programs.

Kentuckiana Digital Library

Kentuckiana digital library. (2009, September 25).  Retrieved from http://kdl.kyvl.org/cgi/b/bib/bib-idx?c=oralhistbib;cc=oralhistbib;   page=simple

The Kentuckiana Digital Library provides access to a wide variety of digitized historical newspaper, photographs, books, and other material.  One important section of the collection is the oral histories section which provides users with access to oral histories covering a variety of topics relating to Kentucky history.


Alive in Truth

Aumer-Ryan, P., Bronstad, K., & Cofield, M. (2006, August). Alive in truth. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nzdl.org/gsdlmod?a=p&p=about&c=aliveint

The Alive in Truth digital collection is a collection of oral histories from people in New Orleans, Louisiana who were affected by hurricane Katrina.  The collection was created by The New Orleans Disaster Oral History and Memory Project.

Pittsburgh and Beyond: The Experience of the Jewish Community

Digital Research Library, University of Pittsburgh. (2008). Pittsburgh and beyond: the experience of the Jewish community. Retrieved from http://digital.library.pitt.edu/n/ncjw/index.html

The Pittsburgh and Beyond collection is an oral history collection that was done by the National Council of Jewish Women Oral History Project.  The collection provides oral histories from people in the Jewish community in Pittsburgh about their history, traditions, contributions, and culture.

Doris Duke Collection

University of Oklahoma, Western History Collection. (n.d.). Doris Duke collection. Retrieved  from http://digital.libraries.ou.edu/whc/duke/

The Duke Collection of American Indian Oral Histories provides oral histories of  hundreds of Native Americans from Oklahoma.  The oral histories give users access and insight into the ceremonies, customs, social conditions, philosophies, and standards of living of a large number of Native Americans in Oklahoma.