Messiah with the Microphone? Oral Historians, Technology, and Sound Archives

Robert B. Perks

in The Oxford Handbook of Oral History

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780195339550
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199940578 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Messiah with the Microphone? Oral Historians, Technology, and Sound Archives

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For decades, oral historians and their tape recorders have been inseparable, but it has also been an uneasy marriage of convenience. The recorder is both our “tool of trade” and also that part of the interview with which historians are least comfortable. Oral historians' relationship with archivists has been an uneasy one. From the very beginnings of the modern oral history movement in the 1940s, archivists have played an important role. The arrival of “artifact-free” digital audio recorders and mass access via the Internet has transformed the relationship between the historian and the source. Accomplished twenty-first-century oral history practitioners are now expected to acquire advanced technological skills to capture, preserve, analyze, edit, and present their data to ever larger audiences. The development of oral history in many parts of the world was influenced by the involvement of sound archivists and librarians. Digital revolution in the present century continues to influence oral history.

Keywords: oral historians; tool of trade; digital audio recorders; technological skills; archivists

Article.  8719 words. 

Subjects: Oral History

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