Methodology: Oral History and Inclusivity

Oral history has been embraced by historians as a means to make history more inclusive, and more democratic, than is possible with traditional historical enquiry. As oral historian Paul Thompson wrote, “Oral history is a history built around people. It thrusts life into history itself and widens its scope. It allows heroes not just from the leaders, but also from the unknown majority of people…. It brings history into, and out of, the community.”

Oral history serves as the ideal means to investigate the often little-known experiences of those who have suffered human rights violations, and of the individuals and groups — both prominent and less known — who have taken action to promote human rights. The Museum’s Oral History Program seeks to include the voices of all, and to use these voices to promote dialogue concerning human rights.

Interviewee Selection Criteria

The Museum’s Oral History Program strives to be inclusive of age, gender, language, ability, economic status, ethno-cultural background, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, geographic location, and other life experiences. As a national museum in Canada, inclusivity of both official languages is also of vital importance.

Importance of Balance and Representativeness

The Museum’s approach to research, exhibits and program development is to provide balanced perspectives.  Diverse and opposing perspectives are included within the oral history collection. 

Life Story Interviews

The Museum collects life stories in oral history  interviews. By recording a full life story instead of conducting a more limited interview on a single event or experience, the oral histories provide a rich basis for scholarly research. Interviews may range from one to several hours and may take place over more than one session. This approach allows for a comprehensive understanding of oral history participants and yields new insights into our national and global past.

Shared Authority

A fundamental value of our research approach is that of “shared authority.” Participants determine what they wish to include in their interviews and may choose not to answer some questions. They may pause or end an interview at any time. They may request that we cut out any part of the interview with which they are uncomfortable. Interviewees are asked to sign a Consent Form to enable them to specify how their interview may be used.