Oral History and ‘Contested Histories’

On 5 and 6 October, Sprekende geschiedenis delivered an online guest lecture as part of the international training course ‘Sharing Stories on Contested Histories 2023’ (SSOCH 2023). SSCOH is an initiative of the RCE in cooperation with the Reinwardt Academy and is part of the Shared Cultural Heritage programme (now International Heritage Cooperation). The aim of the training is to connect and engage young heritage professionals and academics from different countries in the international dialogue on dealing with fraught histories and/or new perspectives and to contribute to an open and equal handling of complex heritage. Speaking History was asked to provide a vision on possible applications of oral history in dealing with these ‘Contested Histories’.


‘Contested Histories’

By ‘Contested Histories’ we mean all those situations where the existing known historical narrative or heritage is refuted or supplemented by alternative narratives and/or new perspectives. Think of slavery history, colonialism, but also new perspectives on events in a war or stories of new or different population groups such as immigrants or refugees.


Can Oral History make a contribution in this area?

Oral History as a method is known and appreciated as an important source of historical information from society. Oral history defines oral history as: ‘The recording of people’s life stories and testimonies about historical events and the significance of these events for the lives of people and those around them’. These stories provide valuable information about events in recent history, information we cannot get from official papers and historical objects. They can also open up new and underrepresented perspectives on historical events and people’s lives. It is especially this aspect of oral history that makes it interesting in relation to ‘Contested Histories’. Four different situations of ‘Contested Histories’ where oral history can contribute, for example, are:


1.      Giving a voice to underrepresented subcultures;

2.      Presenting different perspectives on the same historical event;

3.      Opening new perspectives on a hegemonic discourse;

4.      Creating a safe space to deal with post-conflict situations.


The role of the lecture is not just to provide information, but to provide a shared social space and a performance, wherein knowledge and its performances becomes memorable (T. Green)


From interviews to presentation, Toby Green

Oral history interviews have value in themselves. Interviews can be seen primarily as historical source material. But in addition, they also have social value; people who are interviewed feel heard and feel they can finally tell their side of the story. But the value is further enhanced if the stories told are heard by the widest possible audience. For that to happen, the information from the interviews must be responsibly converted into an attractive presentation format. In this context, a theory and idea by Toby Green[1] is interesting. Toby Green argues that, as a Western society, we have lost something very essential the moment we started transmitting our history in writing instead of orally. Here, he points out an essential difference between a ‘presentation’ and an ‘oration’. The former, he argues, concentrates on information transfer pure and simple. In the second, the form in which oral history used to be conveyed, two things are very important that are often forgotten in a presentation: the social context and, what Toby Green calls the ‘memorable performance’. The social context ensures interaction between listeners, which makes the story stick better and gives it more depth. The ‘memorable performance’ ensures that the story makes an impression so that the audience does not forget the story easily.


Photo credit: Amazon Conservation Team

Telling examples

On our website, we collect ‘Telling Examples’, which are examples of oral history projects where oral history interviews have been converted into a special form of presentation. During the guest lecture for SSOCH 2023, we discussed one ‘Speaking Example’ in more detail for each of the four situations mentioned above in which oral history can contribute to ‘Contested Histories’. In doing so, we chose examples where we felt special attention had been paid to the social context and ‘memorable performance’:



The examples led to interesting discussions where valuable questions arose that arise in practice such as: who decides what is shown and what is not, how to distribute different perspectives across a space, how to deal with opposing views or uncomfortable reactions, how to deal with ‘incorrect historical facts’, how to deal with trauma, etc.


At the symposium ‘Oral History, een stap verder’ on 8 December at the RCE in Amersfoort, we will also present these examples. Curious? Then take a look at our website under ‘Telling examples’.

[1] Toby Green, ‘The historical lecture: past, present and future, Transactions of the RHS (2022), 1–23.

Five questions for Leonie Wingen

In our ‘5 questions for’ column, we talk to interesting people and dive deeper into the field of oral history. Leonie Wingen works as heritage participation advisor at the Cultural Heritage Agency and is closely involved in the Faro Convention and the Oral history theme.


1/ Can you (briefly) introduce yourself?  

“I work at the National Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE) as a heritage participation advisor. I also work as a freelancer for museums that want to increase diversity in their collection by adding objects, stories and perspectives. I help to set up and supervise collecting projects, collecting with people and organisations from outside the museum. Sometimes this is because of a particular knowledge or experience the museum does not have in-house, other times it is to make room for other perspectives. At its core, it is actually always about the personal story in relation to shared values.


I have been working in the museum world for about 15 years and am fascinated in how we as humans give meaning to objects, traditions and customs and how this meaning-making can differ between people and change over time. In doing so, I find it interesting to look at events and other changes affecting them. So it may not surprise you that I studied cultural anthropology and heritage studies”.


2/ At the RCE, you are closely involved in the Faro Convention and the Oral history theme. What exactly is your role?  

The Faro Convention focuses on what people see as cultural heritage and the (different) meanings they give to it. Personal stories and testimonies, recorded using the oral history method, give meaning to heritage and therefore fit well with the Faro principles. The convention also calls for an open attitude about what heritage is. For instance, certain (stories of experience) may be seen by groups or communities an sich as a form of cultural heritage. In the Faro programme, there are ambitions to give oral history a structural place in the heritage system, and to make national agreements for safeguarding, finding and accessing oral history collections. My role is to drive the implementation of these – and other – ambitions, to advise on them, and to guide and monitor developments in this area”.   


3/ What do you think is the impact or value of Oral History for cultural heritage?

“The oral history method is a valuable tool for collecting, preserving and being able to share oral testimonies and personal stories. Adding human stories to cultural heritage, told from different generations or cultural backgrounds, for example, contributes to a greater understanding of another person’s environment. Oral history also gives a voice to people whose heritage is not or less visible in museums or public spaces. And oral history is of course important for passing on knowledge about traditions and other forms of intangible heritage to future generations”.


4/ You are involved in participatory collection projects as a freelancer, collecting personal (experiential) stories. Can you name an example project that has made an impact?

“With the Street Art Museum Amsterdam (SAMA) I recorded stories of residents living in a neighbourhood subject to large-scale development plans. Many single people live in this neighbourhood in the Nieuw-West district, including a large number of elderly people and newcomers. Due to planned demolition and renovation work, residents will have to leave their homes within five years. Some residents have already left, others are waiting, and new temporary residents are moving into the neighbourhood. SAMA is also temporarily housed there in a former house to organise cultural activities together with the residents. Social goals here are to increase social cohesion in the neighbourhood and combat loneliness.


Residents’ stories show who they are and that they are there. Short versions of them are presented with artworks they created during workshops, and with symbolic portraits created by the artist involved. Soon, the stories and art will be exhibited at both a local community centre and a street art gallery in the city centre.


What I find special about this project is how recording the stories, in conjunction with the other activities, has a social impact. The project gives the ‘forgotten’ residents a voice and self-esteem, connects them with each other, and contributes to a sense of community”.


5/ Finally, what project are you currently working on and would like to share with us? 

“Besides my work for the Faro programme, I am currently working with the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum on a collecting project on the theme of menstruation. We are collecting stories and objects that tell about how we deal with menstruation in society in the Netherlands. Menstruation is a broad topic which can cover menstrual poverty, sustainable and conscious choices, prejudice, feminism, physical discomfort, social discomfort, (lack of) facilities, and much more. Since everyone is directly or indirectly affected by it in society, it is important to gather from different perspectives and experiences. For this purpose, we organise group discussions and record stories of experience. Remarkably, there is still a taboo in society on the subject of menstruation. By making it discussable with this project, the museum contributes to breaking the taboo. Would you like to participate? Then Sign up!”



Vacancy: PhD Candidate For The History of the Second Feminist Wave in the Netherlands

Photo: Kelompok women from the Atria archive


Do you have an MA in history and are you passionate about the history of feminism and in developing your expertise in the fields of gender, women’s and oral history? Then you may be interested in this PhD position to work on an oral history project concerning the history of feminism and women’s movements in the Netherlands in the period 1965-1990.


This PhD project will explore the complexity and diversity of the history of feminist movements in the years 1965-1990. Traditionally, historical research on the second feminist wave in the Netherlands has largely been published by those involved in the movement itself with a focus on well-known groups and individuals. The result is that a variety of women related to the second feminist wave are missing from previous studies. By studying these women, you will make an innovative contribution to the historiography of feminism in the Netherlands. 


You will study groups and individuals that have not been very visible in the historiography so far. For example organisations of female journalists, abortion doctors and nurses, the Turkish workers’ women’s movement Hollanda Türkiye Kadinlar Birligi, politicians, trade unions, organisations of Black and migrant women, or other local, regional or national or transnational organisations.


Oral history will be your central research method. By interviewing a selection of relevant actors, you will try to answer questions such as: How did specific groups and individuals relate to ideals, ideologies and action repertoires of feminism in everyday practice? Who actually identified themselves as feminist and for whom and why has this been problematic in the past and/or present? How do memories of individual women relate to collective images and historiography? 


Throughout your research project, you will explore the added value of oral history in cultural-historical research with an intersectional and cultural approach, paying specific attention to gender, ethnicity, class and region. Part of the project will involve establishing contacts, connections and collaborations with individual and groups of women. We explicitly invite you to formulate your own research question and select and motivate your own case study or case studies.


Your research will be embedded in the Radboud Institute for Culture & History (RICH), and you will be part of the Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH). You will devote 75% of your time to the research for and writing of your PhD thesis. The remaining 25% will be spent on training and academic service to the Faculty of Arts, including teaching.


Read the full job description here

8 December 2023 | symposium ‘Oral History, one step further’

On Friday 8 December, the ‘Sprekende geschiedenis’ hub will host a symposium ‘Oral History, a step further’ at the RCE (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed) in Amersfoort.



Backstage, we are busy preparing the programme and are pleased to share that one of the speakers is Rose Mary Allen. She is Extraordinary Professor Culture, Community and History at the University of Curaçao. She will talk more about her oral history experiences in Curaçao and Cuba.


Also, Frank von Meijenfeldt of the ‘Sprekende geschiedenis’ hub will give a presentation on new technical developments not to be missed.



After the plenary session, there will be five interactive workshops:


1. Museums and oral history: Current developments.

2. Preserving and making accessible oral history interviews for small and large projects.

3. ‘Oh, is that how you do it? Sharing experiences of oral history projects.

4. The role of oral history in controversial histories.

5. First aid for transcribing.


For the workshops, several interesting speakers have registered. The final programme with all names will follow shortly.


From Monday 18 September it will be possible to register for the symposium and sign up for the workshops.




Looking forward to the oral history symposium we organised in 2022 at Beeld en Geluid in The Hague? Check out here the highlights, video and photos for inspiration.

Forty women to remember: the Turkish and Moroccan women’s movement

Photo: Turkish women at a strike. By Bertien van Maanen. From the collection of Atria


In the 1970s and 1980s, more and more migrant workers became involved in associations and strikes that stood up for their rights and interests. In the 1970s, family reunification was made difficult. Those women who did manage to come to the Netherlands were made dependent on their husbands. Her residence permit expired if her husband returned to his home country or divorced his wife within 3 years of the certificate being issued.




In 1975, a group of Turkish women decided to secede from the general association and stand up for their rights as Turkish women: the Hollanda Türkiye Kadinlar Birligi (HTKB) was formed. The Moroccan Women’s Association (MVVN) followed in the 1982s.



Speaking History aims to capture the stories of the first generations of women who fought for their rights. We are also curious about the women of today: what social initiatives are there today and how do the women of today compare to the women of the past?


Together with volunteers, we will interview 40 women in the coming period about their involvement in women’s initiatives for Turkish and/or Moroccan women in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague and Eindhoven.




This project is carried out in memory of Özden Yalim (1946 – 2023), advocate of Turkish women’s rights and one of the initiators of the project.

The hidden treasure of Sound & Vision

Oral History collections at the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision



Although when most people think of the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision, they will probably think first of the Media Museum and the Top 2000, this institute also manages the Netherlands’ premier audiovisual archive. One of the hidden treasures within this archive is the collection of Oral History and Oral History-based radio broadcasts, documentaries and films. A treasure, because these are very valuable collections, including some of the oldest Oral History collections in the Netherlands. But also hidden, because a significant part of these collections has not yet been digitised and those that have been digitised and Oral History-based items are difficult to find without prior knowledge.


In recent months, our intern Myrthe Kroes has been researching Oral History material in the archive of Sound and Vision as part of her internship from the Open University. She recorded her findings in the article ‘The hidden treasure of Sound and Vision’.


Curious about what’s on offer at Sound & Vision? Take a look at our collections and search on Archives: Image & Sound. Based on the inventory of Oral History collections made, the Image and Sound collection on our collection page will be further expanded soon. Besides the mentioned collections, we are also working diligently to add and update the collections-related items in DAAN and where to find them. So it is worth checking our collections page regularly!


Also interesting:

In the section ‘Five questions for Bas Agterberg, Curator of Media History at the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision, tells more about collection policy, media history and plans for the future.

5 questions for Bas Agterberg


In our ‘5 questions to’ section, we talk to interesting people and dive deeper into the field of oral history. Bas Agterberg, Curator of Media History at the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision; , talks more about collection policy, media history and plans for the future.


1/Can you (briefly) introduce yourself?

“After studying Theatre, Film and Television Studies, I taught at Utrecht University and also worked in film production. I have been working at Sound and Vision since 2007 and have worked on various projects, ranging from setting up the Sound and Vision Wiki to participating in education and research projects. As curator, I am involved in formulating collection policy, as well as increasing and spreading knowledge about the collections.”


2/What is your expertise?

“Actually, my expertise is that I know a little bit about a lot of things, and that comes in handy with the large and varied collections of Sound & Vision. I make connections between the collections and media history. What I like most is the connection between the various media and that I am often surprised by programmes, diverse subjects, the form or the makers involved. The history of the archive itself is an important subject for me. You can understand many productions by putting them in the context of when they were made and distributed. Preserving media was not obvious for a long time, so analysing the origins is crucial with many collections. How did different collections end up in the archive?”


3/ Within the archive of Sound and Vision, there are several and valuable Oral History collections housed, can you tell us a bit more about this?

“Sound & Vision was formed in 1997 from the mergers of three archives and the Broadcasting Museum. The Film and Science Foundation was one of the partners. Officially founded in 1955, but before then there were initiatives for sound archives in particular. Eventually, recordings from various universities ended up at the Film and Science Foundation, and many Oral History collections can be found here. For me, the conversations with filmmakers are relevant. Another example is Philo Bregstein’s interviews on memories of Jewish Amsterdam. A large number of these collections are not yet digitised and sometimes described in a limited way. However, well described and available is an Oral History collection of the broadcaster itself. The Broadcasting Museum made a series of interviews with former broadcasting employees from the 1980s onwards and it gives a unique insight into the developments within the broadcasting company in the period from the 1930s to the 1990s.”


4/How accessible are your collections? Where can people go if they are looking for broadcasting (oral history) collections?”

“The digitised collections can be accessed by researchers in the Clariah Media Suite. In some cases, permission for use is not clear and not everything is accessible online. Then a visit to Hilversum is necessary. Unfortunately, many of the collections of the Film and Science Foundation are not yet digital either. We can share Oral History subjects, though, so that if researchers really need it, they can report to our Research & Heritage department and we can register, describe and digitise that collection as a priority or in collaboration.”


5/What developments are you working on when it comes to unlocking collections and/or how do you see the future/development of oral history?”

“Thanks to the major digitisation project Images for the Future (2007-2014), a large part of the collection has been digitised and we also have the ability to digitise material ourselves. For accessibility, continuous work has been done within the possibilities of copyright and AVG to make as many collections accessible as possible. The Clariah Media Suite is a milestone. Researchers can view and listen to almost the entire collection of Sound & Vision from the university or their institute. For the general public, a lot of material will come online in a treasure trove of Beeld & Geluid by 2025.

In a digital collection, the need for background information on available productions increases. You therefore see all kinds of initiatives to record history in Oral History. It has become increasingly easy to record audio or video. Preserving it properly and making it available, that turns out to be a challenge for research institutes or heritage institutions. Archives are an indispensable link. But many local or regional archives also have limited capacity or expertise about (digital) audiovisual collections. Image & Sound is therefore important, not only as a repository, but also to transfer expertise to heritage institutions.”


Read here more about Oral History collections at the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision.


Follow Bas Agterberg on LinkedIn

A new ‘museums and oral history’ page

This is the first time that the expert meeting ‘Museums and Oral History’ has been held.

During the expert meeting ‘Museums and Oral History’ the first steps were taken to identify the issues within the museum world. Curious about the conclusions, project examples, reading tips or would you like to come and talk to others?”

Please join us.


On the new page ‘Museums and Oral History’ you will find both theoretical reading tips and practical examples concerning oral history and museums.


Soon, this page will also feature the Museums and Oral History Handbook (in collaboration with the National Cultural Heritage Agency).

Photo: Zeeuws Museum

5 questions for Marie Claire Dangerfield

In our ‘5 questions for’ column, we engage in conversation with interesting people, diving into the field of oral history and everything related to it. This month, a valuable conversation with Marie Claire Dangerfield who shares her knowledge and tips with us from her position as Information Management Specialist at  het Stadsarchief Rotterdam.


1/ Can you introduce yourself (briefly)?

“I was born and raised in Ireland and my passion for my work comes from the desire to bring people closer to their history and oral history is a fantastic method to achieve that. I have lived in the Netherlands since 2012, my first job was at Stichting Europeana in The Hague and since 2015 I have been working for the Stadsarchief Rotterdam as Expert Information Management. In my work in Rotterdam, I have been concerned with how we can bring people closer to the archive, whether that is by supporting community archive projects, promoting oral history or stimulating technological developments.”


2/ What is your expertise?

“My expertise lies particularly in stimulating and promoting practical practices for heritage practices. Think about combining the legal and technical needs of archives and the needs of community/oral history projects, among others, and how they can reinforce and support each other. This came together in the ‘Stories in Motion’ project with Norah Karrouche and Marjan Beijerings. This project focused on providing the tools to people who were in the process of setting up an oral history project. So from the idea, initiation, interviewing, transcribing and finally transferring to an archive. For example, I helped create templates for both consent forms for interviewees and researchers (so that all interviews can be used as data) and metadata (so that they are more accessible and findable in a database).”


3/ What does oral history mean to you and how did you come into contact with oral history?

“I always found it fascinating to see how people connect with the society around them and partly because of this, I decided to study Folklore and Sociology at University College Dublin (UCD). Inspired by using the fantastic folklore archive at UCD during my Bachelors, I set my course to obtain a Masters in Archives and Records Management also at UCD, hoping to help people record and share their stories and identity(s). When I graduated, I worked for a national oral history project working on the importance of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association), a national sports organisation in Ireland. Thus, in addition to the folklore collections in my studies, I was introduced to oral history, and still find it a great connecting tool that reveals new perspectives within contemporary history and is an important addition to archival sources.”


4/ What lessons would you take away from Ireland when it comes to deployment and practice of oral history?

“Ireland in its current state is a relatively new country (the Irish Free State was founded in 1922 and became independent in 1949). When decolonising Irish history, oral history was an important tool for recording its own stories and identities. Oral history remains popular, especially where people feel their history is seen as less important. I think the popularity of oral history in Ireland has come from a bottom-up perspective, then and now. There are many groups initiating their own projects and there are more educational opportunities in oral history in Ireland for all kinds of people at different levels. Many libraries in Ireland facilitate their collection and record-keeping, making the projects and practices more accessible. The Oral History Association of Ireland, of which I am still a member, promotes oral history from a bottom-up approach. This works very well and is very empowering, and I think ‘Sprekende Geschiedenis’ could very well continue this in the Dutch-speaking areas.” 


5/ As an archivist you have also been involved in communities in Rotterdam, a question that often comes up is; how do you involve communities in your archive? What are your thoughts on this?

“An archive is not a library or museum, it’s not a place you just go to and that’s why it might not be on people’s map or they might think the archive is not for them. It is often seen as a place where old objects and documents are kept. Making it clear what a role of an archive is and what role it plays in a city is the first thing to do. Once that is done, it is easier to explain why people would want to hand over their material to an archive. When people understand that we value their material and contributions, they are much more open to working with the archive and it becomes easier to get them involved.


It is of course a long-term process, which is reflected in the archive’s mission/vision, the acquisition policy and the work done by the acquisition team. For me, it has been useful to work with other parties in the city, such as DIG IT UP, because they have a wider network and different contacts that groups trust more than a government agency. To engage different groups of communities, it works best to offer clear frameworks and tools in addition to working together, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every project. But also engaging with communities on how they want their material to be shared makes our work a lot more accessible and transparent.”


On the ‘Sprekende geschiedenis’ Forum, Marie Claire provides practical and useful tips for when you want to file your oral history material with an archive from an association or community. Check out the tips here, and join the discussion! 


Keti Koti 2023

Fotocredit: NRC

In the Netherlands, the abolition of slavery is remembered and freedom celebrated every year on 1 July. About 150 years ago, slavery ended in Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles, which were then colonies of the Netherlands. Celebrating Keti Koti is important for society because it reminds us of the past, inspires us for the future and spurs us to action in the fight against inequality and racism.


All kinds of activities are organised throughout the Netherlands, we have listed some of them:

Keti Koti, Amsterdam

The National Institute Dutch Slavery History and Legacy (NiNsee) is organising the annual National Commemoration Dutch Slavery History for the 21st time on Saturday 1 July from 14:00 to 15:15 at Oosterpark in Amsterdam. The National Commemoration is also the official start of the Remembrance Year of the Slavery Past and will be attended by a delegation of the Cabinet. This year, the Keti Koti Festival, which celebrates the abolition of slavery in Suriname and the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, will take place on the Museumplein in Amsterdam. More information via link.


Keti Koti Festival Utrecht

An afternoon of connection, performances and food at the Keti Koti Festival in Utrecht. The festival welcomes everyone on Saturday 1 July from 14:00 in the Griftpark, located in the heart of Utrecht.


Keti Koti Haarlem

The Keti Koti Haarlem Foundation and the Frans Hals Museum are joining forces to organise Keti Koti Haarlem, a dynamic event in the context of Colonial Haarlem on 1 July on location Hof in the museum, complete with music, workshops, snacks and cultural exchange. The event will take place from 15:00 to around 20:00 and is free to visit.


Filmhuis Den Haag, The Hague

In collaboration with Pepr, the Dutch streaming platform for films by black filmmakers and stories from the African diaspora, and the House of Poems, Filmhuis Den Haag presents a diverse day and evening programme full of poignant films and inspiring spoken word, from 10:45 to 22:40. Information on tickets and prices can be found here.


Keti Koti Festival, Rotterdam

The commemoration is on 30 June and the liberation festival will be celebrated on 1 July with a Keti Koti Festival. In Rotterdam, the monument commemorating slavery stands on the Lloydkade, on the spot where ships of the Rotterdam slave trading company Coopstad and Rochussen left for Africa. You can find the programme here.


Spot, Groningen

On Saturday 1 July, Groningen celebrates the abolition of slavery with Keti Koti. On that day, Groningen’s city centre turns into a large festival area. At various locations, special activities will be organised in the context of Groningen’s slavery past and its influence on the present. More information via the Spot Groningen website.


Featured: Oral History

On Friday 30 June, a Keti-Koti lecture and Commemoration with oral histories about oppression, mutilation and cultural uprooting, among other things, will take place at Nijmegen City Hall, with a lecture by Rose Mary Allen (University of Curaçao): ‘Towards a multi-voiced perspective on the Dutch slavery past, its working through and healing’.