Oral History, Public History and Heritage

Wishing to integrate what I will learn during the MA in Public History with my interest and personal knowledge on heritage, I will be focusing my essay on the upsides and downsides of using oral history when tackling heritage issues. Indeed, I want to get a deeper look at how testimonies can unveil hidden aspects of heritage that would not necessarily be exposed in broader heritage organisations or projects. It is notably the case with projects on cultural landscape and agricultural heritage, the use of technologies or even bringing light to life «below the stairs» in historic houses. Oral history is a quite recent route used to render heritage more accessible to the general public, as, for example, the Heritage Lottery Fund has included oral history projects only since 1998. Yet, it is now a very proactive solution to allow people to be heard, to tell their own story and contribute to preserving not only a built heritage but also an intangible heritage. There remain however challenges, the main one being what can be considered as «heritage» and what is worth preserving. It seems like very obvious statements but that can pose a challenge for an organisation or a group wishing, for example, to fund a project through the Heritage Lottery Fund. Furthermore, heritage is a very political term and with it comes an added obstacle for oral historians to show the interest of some projects.


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