Oral History Collection

We have been collecting recordings of people’s memories since the mid-1980s and now hold over 1,700 interviews on life in Portsmouth, and about D-Day and the Battle for Normandy. These recordings have not only been made by the service itself, often by volunteers or in partnerships with local groups such as Eastney Community Association, the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Trust and the University of Portsmouth, but we also store recordings created by others in the city and make them accessible to the public. This group includes the oral history collection of Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Trust, over 425 recordings about working life in the dockyard. 

Please click here to find out what is in the archive and see some of the results of our work including photographs, exhibitions and publications.

What is oral history?

• Oral history is the oldest form of history, one person telling another what they know of the past.

• Oral history is the recording of people’s memories and experiences, using audio or videotape.

• Oral history is a unique way of enabling ordinary people to be heard and to contribute to their history and the history of their city.

• Oral history allows us to question the existing view of history in a new way.

• Oral history preserves everyone’s past for the future.


Oral history can be used in a variety of ways:

• involving the local community in creating their own history, using their own words

• using the collections as a resource for research by anyone interested in the history of the area,

• to help research family history

• schools can use oral history as a resource to help children explore their local community and bring young and old together

• oral history can be used in community work with older people to give a sense of worth and continued value

• exhibitions and publications can be given an added dimension using oral history or they can be based solely on people’s memories

• oral history is increasingly used on CD, in multi-media presentations and on the internet

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