Agreement to participate in a project with an understanding that participants (narrators) have the right to give or withdraw consent at each step of the project’s process without consequences of any kind. Some of these steps can include editing, publication, media broadcast, and future use.
An agreement that documents, verbally or in writing, that the narrator has been given all the information necessary to come to a decision about whether to participate in the oral history project. Informed consent does not cover or deal with copyright. The interview process must be transparent, with ongoing participation, consent, engagement, and open discussion among all parties, from the first encounter between interviewer and narrator to the creation of end products. Informed consent plays a key role in ensuring transparency.
Educational Purposes means use for the purpose of education, teaching, distance learning, private study and/or research. When a project’s stated goal is for Educational Purposes, this does not free institutions or individuals of obligations related to copyright, informed consent, fair compensation, and more.
The exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work). An agreement that documents, verbally or in writing, that the narrator has been given all the information necessary to come to a decision about whether to participate in the oral history project. Informed consent does not cover or deal with copyright. The interview process must be transparent, with ongoing participation, consent, engagement, and open discussion among all parties, from the first encounter between interviewer and narrator to the creation of end products. Informed consent plays a key role in ensuring transparency.
When two or more authors prepare a work with the intent to combine contributions into inseparable or interdependent parts, the work is considered “joint work,” and its authors are considered joint copyright owners. In oral history, Co-Copyright can include narrators, interviewers, and organizations/institutions.
Shared authority removes the hierarchy commonly practiced within cultural institutions. Moving away from a top-down approach, shared authority is geared toward collaboration that includes dialogue and participatory engagement. The practice of shared authority creates opportunities for oral and written histories contributed by individuals outside the strictly academic community in conjunction with more traditional scholarly essays, text panels or exhibit labels.
Shared agreements are standards and behaviors that a group creates together and agrees to stick to. Shared agreements establish ways of working and being together throughout an oral history project, conference, workshop, etc. Shared agreements are meant to hold all participants accountable to each other.
Shared accountability is a model for shared leadership that stresses that all participants in an oral history project (narrators, community partners, etc.) have a “seat at the table” and are equally held accountable for decisions made before, during, and after the project has been completed. Shared accountability addresses inequities when decisions are made solely by a designated manager or leader.
IRB (Institutional Review Board)
A specifically constituted review body established or designated by an institution to protect the rights and welfare of human subjects recruited to participate in social science research. According to the Oral History Association, “Recent revisions to the U.S. Department Health and Human Services ‘Policy for Protection of Human Research Subjects’ (known as the Common Rule) in 2019 now exclude oral history from IRB review through a strict definition of research.”
Social Justice Framework
An analysis of how power, privilege, and oppression impact our experience of our social and cultural identities. This analysis contributes to and becomes a main focus and topic of exploration, for oral historians who collaborate primarily with vulnerable communities.
Any organization that may be affiliated with the oral history project, either by paying for the costs associated with oral history work (labor, travel expenses, and so on), providing archival services for a completed project, or providing in-kind support such as relationship building within a community or sharing social capital.
A practice or set of guidelines and principles for oral historians that centers narrator agency and power. This practice places narrator agency on equal (or greater) footing as institutions and their agents. This practice could include issues of representation, ownership, access, privacy, intent, and more.
Understanding the power dynamics involved in any oral history interview is essential for ethical work in this field. This is especially important when working with vulnerable populations—including, but not limited to, the following: those who might be put in danger or face harm by publicly sharing their experience; legal minors, and others with limited agency and freedom; those with impaired ability to fully consent, and Indigenous and communities of color who experience social stratification and recent or intergenerational trauma. An additional example of groups of people who may fit this description includes those who discuss or describe activities, such as immigration, that could technically violate state or federal laws.
Archives and other repositories of oral history interviews and related records, often tasked with making records accessible, may also be able to withhold records from being used or viewed for a period of time.
Privacy (Narrator and Community Access)
The practice of preserving oral history and making it accessible in any format. Narrators need a precise understanding of what access to their interview will look like, as well as consideration for any third parties discussed within the recording. Access needs to meet local, national, and international data and privacy requirements/standards. Anyone conducting or storing oral history interviews should take all practicable steps to keep the interviews protected from possible illegal or unauthorized uses.
Confidentiality is the keeping of another person’s or entity’s information private. Certain professionals are required by law to keep information shared by a client or patient private, without disclosing the information, even to law enforcement, except under certain specific circumstances. In oral history projects, confidentiality cannot be totally guaranteed, despite best intentions.
While a narrator may choose to have their name disassociated from any interview, or choose to utilize a pseudonym, there can be no guarantees toward absolute anonymity in the oral history process. Information provided to an oral historian is only anonymous if there is no way for anyone, at any time, to determine the narrator’s identity from it; that is, there is no identifiable information (see term below). This is a very high standard of information security that oral historians are only rarely able to offer.
It may sometimes be possible to record an oral history interview with a narrator using a pseudonym. In such cases, the oral historian should use only the fictitious name when referring to the narrator during the interview or in any related materials, such as transcripts, notes, finding aids, or publications. However, this does not mean that the information provided during the interview will be anonymous or confidential.
Community is defined as a “group of individuals who share a collective geographic space, experience, or level of ownership of the content being shared.” This definition includes individual narrators, individuals connected to the narrator, referenced by, or ancillary to narrators and other project participants.