Publishing oral history

Why publish?

In your attic or garage, you may have some oral history tapes that haven’t seen the light of day since they were collected. Or you may be planning an oral history project and are considering what to do with it once the interviews are finished. You may already have plans to stage a small local exhibition, and to deposit tapes and transcripts in your local library and with the East Midlands Oral History Archive. Such activities will enable many people to access the material, but a publication may make it even more widely available. Publishing can also increase interest and support for future projects, perhaps inspiring other potential interviewees to share their memories.

What format?

Oral histories can be published in a variety of formats including transcripts, books, journal articles, or exhibitions. If you want a more innovative approach you could dramatise the material into a play or novel. Or how about electronic publishing? CD-ROMs can incorporate edited extracts with a wide variety of other archival material such as photos, maps and sound. Publishing on the internet is another option. When choosing a format you will need to consider which is most suited to the historical sources available, the audiences you are aiming at, the time and expertise of those involved, and of course, the financial costs.

Considerations

  • Why do you want to publish?
  • What themes will you focus on?
  • Look at existing publications. What will make yours different and innovative?
  • Who are your target audiences?
  • Do you have any funding?
  • How will you place the oral histories within their historical background?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Where is the funding coming from?
  • How long will the publication be?
  • What photographs and other images will you want to include?
  • When do you expect it to be completed? Be realistic!
  • How will it be publicised and launched?

Getting advice

Your local library, community centre, adult education organisation or even local bookshop may be able to help you with suitable contacts. If not, find addresses from suitable publications in your local studies library.

Your local library or adult education institute may offer courses on writing and getting published. Your library should be able to put you in touch with a regional Literature Officer for advice about grants and workshops for writers.

Two useful guides for those working from the UK (and available in most public libraries) are The Writers’ Handbook; and the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.

There are innumerable books on how to write and get published, but one aimed specifically at local history is: Bob Trubshaw, 1999, How to write and publish local history. Heart of Albion Press. ISBN 1 872883 33 8.

Potential book publishers

The Federation of Worker Writers & Community Publishers helps writers’ groups and publishers to share skills and work with communities. 

The Local History Magazine publishes local history articles. Their Local History Press produces local history books for societies and individuals.

Heart of Albion Press publish local history books on the East Midlands.