Over recent decades oral history has become an increasingly important and versatile area of academic study. As well as offering new perspectives on existing discourses historians and social scientists have used the analysis of oral testimony to address a range of wider issues from debates over methodology to the relationship between memory, health and well-being. The most distinctive contribution of oral history has been to broaden the scope of the historical record to include communities and social groups whose experiences had previously been excluded from conventional source material. Important work in this context has offered new perspectives on various immigrant and ethnic minority groups and aspects of women’s history, as well as the labour movement and working class communities.
In recent years the practise of oral history itself has been opened up to researchers from outside the academic community by the growing number of public history projects. Often with professional guidance and public funding, community groups have been enabled to take an active role in recording, interpreting and disseminating aspects of their own history.
The Centre for Visual and Oral History Research (CVOHR) was set up in 2007 to act as a catalyst for the growing number of diverse projects within the school of Music Humanities and Media that shared a distinctive oral history approach. During the relatively short period of its existence the Centre has already proved highly successful as a vehicle for transferring knowledge to the public through activities of specialised staff within the subject area. Its impact lies in enabling people to reflect on their own lives and where they come from in relation to culture, geography, ethnicity and social and cultural identity