Oral history

What is oral history?

Oral history is a process of documenting oral tradition. «Oral tradition, also called orality, the first and still most widespread mode of human communication. Far more than “just talking,” oral tradition refers to a dynamic and highly diverse oral-aural medium for evolving, storing, and transmitting knowledge, art, and idea» from one generation to another generation.

“Oral History collects memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interviews. An oral history interview generally consists of a well-prepared interviewer questioning an interviewee and recording their exchange in audio or video format. Recordings of the interview are transcribed, summarized, or indexed and then placed in a library or archives. These interviews may be used for research or excerpted in a publication, radio or video documentary, museum exhibition, dramatization or other forms of public presentation. Recordings, transcripts, catalogues, photographs and related documentary materials can also be posted on the Internet. Oral history does not include random taping, such as President Richard Nixon’s surreptitious recording of his White House conversations, nor does it refer to recorded speeches, wiretapping, personal diaries on tape, or other sound recordings that lack the dialogue between interviewer and interviewee.”

Donald Ritchie

Sea trades of Tamils indicate that there must have been an existence of an administrative record-keeping and archiving system among Tamils during the Sangam periods. Parallelly, their oral tradition, such as folklore and others. But now, even administrative record-keeping and archiving are also evolving over to oral tradition. This is especially a widespread situation in the diaspora.

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