Oral history
: Access and use

  • David Andrew Clifford

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


The purpose of this dissertation is to conduct and present research into the issues surrounding access and use of oral history in archives. Oral history has become a valued medium as a way of supplementing records of official transactions with those of experiences of the particular community. The aim of this research is to investigate the state of oral history in British archives, to explore access issues and the way oral history is being used, and to produce recommendations for further research. The research design combined a review of the relevant literature with the collection and analysis of empirical data. The data collection utilized a twin-methods approach of a web-based survey and case study. 30 archives were approached. Of the 28 who responded, 20 answered the survey questions: a response rate of 71%. The findings from the research provide evidence that archivists have concerns over the loss of control of unedited material placed online. There is double the number of in-house finding aids than for online use. The two largest user groups of students and academics, and local and family history researchers account for 85% of users. Institutions record a low frequency of attendance. And oral history is still primarily used in written contexts though audio usage in archives accounts for 25%. The main conclusions from this work are that archives prefer to encourage in-house access for their collections and content. And they take the issue of ethics seriously. This dissertation recommends further research on user expectations of finding aids and access; how oral history resources are used externally, why do archives prefer in-house access, and how does this conflict with the expectations of users; an in-depth survey of online provision; and experiences of specific groups.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorSarah Higgins (Supervisor)


  • access
  • ethics
  • finding aids
  • oral history
  • use

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