The Value of Oral History
Oral histories are one tool that historians use to understand the past. Go to the StoryCorps Animation websites and view a couple of the oral history animated videos. Then answer the following questions: Why is oral history important? What can be gained from oral history than is missing in other types of sources? Is this a valuable teaching tool? What are the problems that oral history might present? Which video(s) did you enjoy and why?
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The Value of Oral History
Oral histories are stories that living individuals tell about their past, or about the past of other people. Oral history is the telling and passing down of stories from one person to another. Oral history therefore teaches us what has changed in the past and what has stayed the same over time. Oral history also preserves for future generations a clear picture of who we are in the present and what we remember in the past.
What can be gained from oral history than is missing in other types of source is that eyewitnesses of the past are able to deliver authentic accounts of events in history. This first-hand information from the sources is the one available in oral history but absent in other sources. A good example is a grand parent Vietnam veteran narrating about the Vietnam war to a grandson.
Oral history is a valuable tool because interviews can provide richer and fuller accounts of important historical events than textbooks and other traditional sources can offer because of the interviews’ personal nature. Not only do oral history interviews give voice to perspectives that are often unrepresented in traditional curricula, but they expose students to valuable firsthand accounts that expand upon and complicate the typical third-person “objective” narrative found in conventional curricula, (“Oslen”).
I did found the problems of oral history when I was doing my readings. The success of an oral interview depends on how organized and well prepared is the interviewer. If not well prepared, which sometimes happens can encourage a broad range of unreliable responses from the informant. The selection of informants for an oral interview, whether the informants are a representative of the general population can be problematic. The location of the interview and the reliability of the memory of the informant can also be an issue.
The video that I enjoyed the most was called, A Life, Complete. It is a story about John Banvard and Jerry Nadeau who are military veterans having served in World War II and Vietnam War. As I was listening, the whole time I was trying to figure out if they were just best friends or actual partners. I was laughing as I was listening to the story just trying to imagine what they looked like. It’s always amusing listening to old grandparents talking to each other! And then of course at the end, you learn that they got married and it showed their cute little pictures! I just thought it was a cute story about two veterans! I enjoyed the oral story a great deal. I often wonder why some people can not retain information and learn through oral history.
I have one question from reading; do you think oral history is more accurate than written history?
Oslen, R. (2016, January 15). Oral History in the Classroom. Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://sohp.org/2016/01/15/oral-history-in-the-cl…
Value of Oral History
Oral history is important because it allows us to experience occurrences from the perspective of the storyteller. Today my Great Grandmother turned 94 years old and there is nothing like hearing her share a detailed story about her past or her experiences as a child growing up in a world that is much different than the world we currently live in today. It is most rewarding to gain her insight regarding personal information and experiences about historical time periods that I have already previously learned about. For me oral history provides feelings and emotions that cannot be interpreted in other types of sources. Being able to somewhat feel and relate to the emotions of oral history is definitely a valuable teaching tool and offers a connection that a textbook is unable to provide. Although oral history is a great form of learning historical events, it comes with its challenges. As time passes our memories begin to fade. With fading memories details and accuracy of important events may become fuzzy and hard to recall. As I mentioned earlier oral history gives us the opportunity to hear the past through the eyes of the storyteller. However, depending on the role or experiences of the storyteller the information could become biased or one sided. After watching a few of the animated videos on StoryCorps Animation website the animated video that I enjoyed most was Double Major. Double Major shared the journey of a father attending college while caring for his roommate who was also his infant daughter. This story was interesting to me because life is not always easy, and challenges and obstacles are bound to interfere throughout our journeys to success. This story was a great example of the importance to keep moving forward and never give up. Although parenting his infant daughter was a huge challenge as he worked towards his degree, he was able to draw strength and determination from his love for her as well.
While both traditional history and oral history are great learning tools, what is your personal preference or learning style?