Geef een of meerdere zoektermen op.
Gebruik dubbele aanhalingstekens om in de exacte woordvolgorde te zoeken.

Getting started yourself: interview with volunteers The Voice of Leiden

In the oral history field, there are an awful lot of committed volunteers: from interviewers to transcribers, people who help with communication or with ICT. There are many enthusiasts who ensure that an oral history project can grow. This month, we speak to two volunteers about the project The Voice of Leiden. Read below the story of chairman Maaike van Soest and interviewer Joke Vos.
Who are you in everyday life?

Maaike: I am Maaike van Soest, 56, a historian by birth. I work as a copywriter and editor. I also have a vegetable garden and lead an NT2 Reading Circle for refugees, migrants and expats every fortnight as a volunteer.







Joke: My name is Joke Vos, 71 years old. After working in care for 40 years, I started volunteering from the age of 60. For De Stem van Leiden, among others. I also do fun things together with my husband, my children and my grandchildren. I love cycling and walking, and in the boating season we go out on the boat a lot. In short: I like to enjoy. 




In short: what is The Voice of Leiden?


Joke: Life stories of Leiden people over 75 years old are many, but so far hardly preserved. With our project, we focus on daily life in the past and what it was like. We work in pairs: first we have an introductory interview with the respondent. If that goes well, we come back for an interview with a voice recorder. Then we transcribe the interview at home. A historical editor checks the transcription and another volunteer makes a summary. The transcribed interviews are then stored at ‘Erfgoed Leiden en Omstreken’. Anyone can read and listen to the story via the website


Maaike: Leiden has changed enormously compared to the last century. Not so long ago, it was an impoverished industrial city, to put it succinctly. The Voice of Leiden was founded almost 9 years ago. We are a group of 30 volunteers and interview older Leiden residents about the Leiden of the past and about their life history. We do not have a specific research assignment, but we want to save the stories older Leiden people still carry with them before it is too late. Most volunteers interview, but there are also people involved in writing summaries, routing from interview to publication, or ict. As a committee, the Voice of Leiden is part of The Historical Society of Old Leiden. The previous chairman of our group set up a nice organisation. By now, almost 140 interviews can be consulted via the archive ‘Erfgoed Leiden en omgeving’. At the moment, we mainly try to ask older Leiden residents with a migration background if they would like to tell their story.


In corona times, there were fewer interviews. We did publish a book of 24 life stories then, with the help of funds. They are a kind of cross-section of the interviews so far. The book found eager demand locally. The mayor of Leiden gives it as a gift at residents’ anniversaries. 


How did you get involved in the project?


Joke: In 2014, the membership magazine of the Historical Society of Old Leiden asked for volunteers for this project. I had just stopped working and this really seemed like something for me. In my work in home care, I visited many people. The stories I heard there fascinated me. Even though I wasn’t born in Leiden, I love hearing more about Leiden’s history. 


Maaike: Like Joke via the magazine of the Historical Society of Old Leiden. Someone tipped me off. For the past two and a half years, I have enjoyed being chairman of the group. I also still enjoy interviewing. 


Have you been involved in an oral history project or interviewed before?


Maaike: As a copywriter, I have now interviewed many people, from ex-junkies to patients, administrators and officials. Those interviews are usually quite short and to-the-point. Writing a piece is quick, I may paraphrase and always have to take into account the reading audience. Interviewing for The Voice is pleasantly different. We try to get the interviewee in the talking chair, take our time and then literally elaborate on the conversation. I have also been familiar with the term oral history for some time: during my studies in the 1980s, I took a few oral history classes.


Joke: In my work in Home Care, you constantly ‘interview’ to properly assess certain situations and act accordingly. I was also a discussion leader for Alzheimer’s Netherlands for ten years. There, I held interviews with guest speakers every month and led information evenings.



Tips for getting started with oral history yourself?


Maaike: Research whether oral history projects already exist in the neighbourhood and area. Arrange in advance how and where you want to store your interview. Liaising with local archives and/or a historical society is, of course, obvious. And: make sure volunteers have practised the free-attitude interview so that they enter an interview as neutral and value-free as possible. 


In addition, you can get inspiration from our book ‘De Stem van Leiden. Vierentwintig Levensverhalen’. It is still on sale in bookshops in Leiden e.o. and through the Historical Society of Old Leiden. See the interviews here or contact us at