I’m stating the obvious, but the fact is that oral history is by its very essence and method contemplative: thoughtful; often quiet -not always – but certainly because it’s done without any deadlines.
It’s done without any time limits – the time that you can spend: a day, two days.
It’s done without any pressure to follow a strict map. The interviewee can move out of chronology on a thought or a memory and you can follow it. And when they’re doing that it’s not an aberration, it’s the very essence of the oral history method.
It’s about evoking unbidden memories. It’s about inviting people to think more about what they did and why they did it than they would probably do in the formal structure of a television interview perhaps; or even perhaps in a biography or an autobiography.
So that in that sense it’s as valuable a tool of history as any conventional method at all. And I love that . And I love the way in which we sit intimately together over a long period of time and slowly unfold a life: and often unfolding things which people themselves had not thought about for thirty, forty or fifty years. And sometimes never thought of at all.