Experiences in Oral History

Contemporary witness interviews in archive organizations and historical research
Heinrich Böll Foundation
For free
Place of publication
Date of Publication
October 2018
Number of Pages
Language of publication

A total of five archives presented their projects. The French Fondation de l'Écologie Politique (Foundation for Political Ecology), for example, reported on its Memory Booth project, which it conducted in 2015 as part of the Summer University of the French Greens. Participants were invited to give spontaneous accounts of events in the French environmental movement. Their memories were recorded and archived. The Austrian Grünes Archiv (Green Archive) presented a series of interviews with contemporary witnesses conducted on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Austrian Green Party's founding. Green politicians were asked to recall the occupation of the Danube's Hainburger Au wetlands, a conflict that was decisive for the founding of the party in 1986. 

Here we are publishing the workshop reports of the Walloon Centre d'archives privées Etopia  (Etopia Private Archive Centre), the German Archiv Grünes Gedächtnis (Green Memory Archives) and the Frauenarchiv Bozen (Bolzano Women's Archive) of South Tyrol – two archives of party foundations and one of the new women's movement.

The first two contributions focus on biographical and thematic interviews with women and men from the environmental, peace and women's movements who played prominent roles in the formative and early stages of Green parties and belong to the generation of founding members. The recording of these personal memories is intended to contribute to historical education and to the historiography of the respective Green parties associated with the archives. A further objective of the interviews is to close gaps in written records and answer content-related questions. Frauenarchiv Bozen  conducts interview projects in order to explore the lives of «nameless women» and hitherto neglected or taboo topics. It can thus provide researchers with new source material. 

A wide range of methods are used in conducting interviews and processing the material to ensure its long-term availability and use. What they have in common is that the archives create sources that can be used in a variety of ways, even though they deviate in some cases from the methodological standards of oral history.

All workshop reports met with great interest and were discussed constructively in the context of the workshop participants' own experiences. In particular, ideas were proposed regarding contextual data that archives should provide on their interview projects.


Table of contents


Workshop Reports
- The oral archives at the Etopia Private Archive Centre
- The interviewing project at the German Green Memory Archive 
- The oral history holdings in the Bolzano Women's Historical Archive 
Self Portrayals
- Austria: The Green Archive
- Belgium: The Etopia Private Archive Centre
- Germany: The Green Memory Archive 
- Italy: Bolzano Women's Historical Archive 
- Italy: The legacy of Alexander Langer in the Alexander Langer Archive 

-  Conceptual remarks on oral history 
- Oral history: stories – history – memory
- Traces of August Haußleiter's past in oral history
- Oral history and the founding story of the Greens 
- Emotional recollection: The role of witnesses for writing a contemporary history of an emotional debate
- Tapping into hidden layers of misunderstanding: oral history and the East-West dialogue
- Oral archives in the French historiography of new social movements 

Major oral souces at the Etopia Private Archive Centre
Green Memory Archive
- List of interviews with members of the founding generation of the German Greens
- Interview projects of the Green Memory Archive
- Interviews in private holdings in the Green Memory Archive

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