The Archival Imperative: Can Oral History Survive the Funding Crisis in Archival Institutions?

Beth M. Robertson

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

 The Archival Imperative: Can Oral History Survive the Funding Crisis in Archival Institutions?

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This article strives to answer the question of whether oral history can survive the funding crisis that rages archival institutions. The cost and complexity of managing archival collections in libraries and archives are increasing at unprecedented rates. Collecting institutions are expected to do more with less, a common experience for most publicly funded repositories since the 1980s. Institutions struggling with backlogs of physical collections are now responsible for electronic collections that grow exponentially and require new formats with astonishing frequency. Archives must provide online as well as on-site services to satisfy researchers, and those who allocate funding. In some ways, oral history is well adapted to survive in this tumultuous environment. Many archival institutions have been educating local practitioners since the 1970s about the standards required by their repositories. The pragmatism required for preservation strategies will be anathema to some curators, just as the underlying principles have been to some archivists in recent years.

Keywords: archival imperative; archival institutions; collecting institutions; physical collections; curators

Article.  6842 words. 

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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