History is all around us. It’s in our own families and communities; in the living memories and the experiences of our elders. We have only to ask them and they can tell us enough stories to fill volumes of books. This kind of personally told narrative – that we all gather as we go through life – is called oral history.
Everyone has a story to tell about their life that is both special and unique to them. Our Digital Living Memorial website has captured the memories of men and women involved in the historical, momentous events of World War Two. We want to encourage everyone who has a relative, friend or colleague with a story to tell about their service or experience of the war to record these precious accounts as a video or audio file for upload to the website along with personal items, including letters and photographs. In this way important recollections can be preserved for posterity.
Historical documents and books can’t tell us everything about our past. Often they concentrate on famous people and big events and tend to miss out ordinary people talking about the way they have been affected by life-changing experiences. They also neglect people on the margins of society – Black and other minority ethnic communities, disabled and unemployed people for example – whose voices have been hidden from history. Oral history fills in the gaps and gives us history which includes everyone in our communities. Unfortunately, because memories die when people do, if we don’t record people’s life histories they are lost forever.
The Oral History Society has proved to be a really useful resource for The-Latest.com and its young volunteers for our World War Two Divided by race, united in war and peace film and photography project. Young people attended Oral History Society training workshops where they learned about the aims and objectives of oral history, who to interview, the right questions to ask, archiving and how to use recording equipment. We topped up this training by giving the volunteers practical experience doing film and other archival research, filming, interviewing, writing and film and text editing. They also went on field trips to places like museums, veterans centres and archives.
Here we provide useful links to the Oral History Society and other organisations that can inform and guide you on your journey to finding, recording and sharing a World War Two story on the Living Memorial website.