Best Practice versus Reality

Arts at Warwick, coronavirus, and remote interviewing in oral history


  • Pierre Botcherby Department of History, University of Warwick, Coventry



student-led research, oral history, remote interviewing, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Disability Visibility Project


COVID-19 was repeatedly labelled ‘unprecedented’. In unprecedented times, we rethink conventional wisdoms. This short article explores oral history, an important element of the Then & Now student-led research project explored in this Special Issue, with such rethinking in mind. Then & Now’s alumni interviews had to be conducted remotely but remote oral history interviews are not universally popular. The Oral History Society (OHS) is hesitant and suggested postponing interviews, reflecting best practice concerns about rapport-building, audio quality and archiving, data protection and security, and community building. For groups like the Disability Visibility Project (DVP) and oral historians like Sarah Dziedzic, remote interviewing is the only viable method and ideals of best practice are too rigid. For oral history to uncover the experiences of those disregarded by conventional histories, access to it and its employment as a research tool should be as universal as possible.

 This article examines and questions best practice guidelines in light of the pandemic and the experiences of the DVP and historians such as Dziedzic. It draws on personal experience of interviewing and from the Then & Now project. This article argues that oral history, an inherently fieldwork-based activity, needs to take remote interviewing as seriously as face-to-face interviewing to become more widely accessible and sufficiently flexible to adapt to conditions in the field.


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