Oral history project

Dr Siegel

As part of the GHH Initiative, AFSM launched a project to record the narrative memories of former WHO staff. The objective is to add information and insight to the collective memory of WHO by providing a unique, primary historical information resource for future researchers by:

  • recording the experiences of people which might otherwise have been lost;
  • introducing the idea of different perspectives on the past;
  • documenting historical experiences which tend to be missing from written sources; and
  • recalling personalities and the sound of voices.

A small team of interviewers who are themselves former staff have adapted the guidelines for oral histories from the British Library Sound Archives.

Procedures for each interview

  • The interview is carried out, usually at the home of the individual. A digital recording is made.
  • The interview is transcribed, and names, dates and events are verified.
  • The individual reviews and corrects the transcript and once satisfied with the text, signs a copyright release form.
  • The audio files and transcripts are deposited in the WHO Archives special collections.
  • The materials are made available by the archivists to qualified researchers in accordance with any confidentiality agreements.

This project is an effective and rewarding way to promote contacts among former staff. Often the interviewing process is a catalyst for people to begin writing their memoirs. Sometimes the speakers are identified for seminars on the global health history or writers found for historical articles or anthologies. Please contact AFSM if you are interesting in contributing an oral history interview to the project or if you would like to be involved in any other way.

WHO regional offices are ideal locations for local oral history activities. A project is underway at the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific to interview leading Philippine health personalities of past eras.

Further references