recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education profiles Clifford Kuhn, the first full-time executive director of the Oral History Association. Here is a taste:
Among Mr. Kuhn's priorities for the oral-history group are to
encourage oral historians to seek collaborations with government
agencies and public entities like libraries and museums. He also wants
to push for continued improvement in oral-history research, and
teaching, "so people are not nonchalant or cavalier about the practice."
That extends to ethical and legal dimensions of the subdiscipline, which were sorely tested in a 2011 case
in which oral historians anxiously supported Boston College's
resistance to a federal subpoena ordering it to release confidential
interviews with participants in Northern Ireland's "troubles." Mr. Kuhn
fears that, without safeguards, advances in technology may further
undermine confidentiality by, for instance, allowing people to easily
forward digital audio recordings to others.
The Oral History Association is among several groups and institutions
that are developing guidelines related to digital recording,
preservation, and intellectual property through a national project, Oral
History in the Digital Age.
Mr. Kuhn would also like oral historians to record the experiences of
refugees in war-torn areas of the world, and to try to improve the
status of oral history in countries with repressive governments.
Then there's the thorny issue of the value assigned to oral-history
projects in tenure-and-promotion deliberations. "That still needs some
work," says Mr. Kuhn, "so that committees recognize that if you generate
an interview, which is of course a historical document, that in itself
is a contribution to the dissemination of knowledge"—certainly if, as in
his case, the documents have been cited in theses, dissertations,
articles, and books.