Many archives, including Suffolk Archives, look after oral histories. These are recordings of people talking about their life. Oral histories are really useful ways of finding out about the past because:

  • They might give us information we wouldn’t find anywhere else
  • They tell us about people’s personal experiences
  • They give us a sense of what somebody is like

Usually, oral histories have one person interviewing, and one person being interviewed. Children could interview older family members or friends, or staff or volunteers at your school.

What can you talk about on an oral history recording?

Any theme to do with history within living memory can be explored through making an oral history. For example, students could ask their interviewees about what how their childhood compares to experiences of childhood today. How many toys did they have? What sort of clothes did they wear? What sort of rules did they have to follow? What sort of games did they play? How old where they when they left school?

How to make a recording

A photo taken over a person's shoulder, who is holding a digital recorder in their hands

To make an oral history, you just need some sort of device which will record sound (e.g. a tablet or smartphone could be used). We also have some professional quality recorders which we can lend to you – please contact us on [email protected] for further details.

What next?

Once they have made an oral history, your students could:

  • Produce a piece of factual writing about what they found out
  • Make a poster about what their interviewee told them
  • Create a piece of fiction writing from the point of view of the person they interviewed
  • Choose extracts of the recording to present to others in class or assembly, or to put on a website with an explanation of why they’ve chosen it and what they learnt from it (with the interviewee’s permission)

What skills will children use?

Making and then working with an oral history will give children practice in:

  • Listening skills
  • Speaking skills
  • Questioning skills
  • Empathy
  • Selecting information