Oral History in the Archives: Its Documentary Role in the Twenty-first Century

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While many archivists and librarians have celebrated oral history's documentary potential, others have questioned its reliance on faulty and subjective memory. The role of archivists as curator of collections or creator of records, an issue that has arisen anew in recent years, is central to this oral history debate. Drawing on fifty years of archival, library, and oral history scholarship, this article examines how the introduction of oral history in archives and libraries has challenged and informed archival theory and practice in the United States. The article argues that oral history's contribution and impact in the twenty-first century will depend on archivists' and librarians' ability and willingness to work together, in collaboration with other disciplines, to document and provide access to our oral heritage in the digital age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-158
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Archivist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Library and Information Sciences


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