Digital oral history and online maps: an overview

Maps are a popular means of presenting the results of oral history research online. Digital oral history maps can combine visual, audio, text and video narratives, to create layers of meaning associated with spaces that are represented on the maps.

A series of four blog posts explores some of the issues around online oral history maps, beginning with a brief synopsis of the problems of presenting oral history in a medium such as the web, where text and visuals are vitally important in Part 1 (Presenting oral history online). For some projects, maps have been chosen as visualisations that accompany the oral histories that are published online; but do these suggest that oral history is experiencing a “spatial turn”? Part 2 (Maps, and how they are used in oral history) explores this question, suggesting that the use of maps in oral history projects is not so much about a spatial turn (which suggests an analysis of the spatial aspect of the oral histories), but rather about a move towards place. Part 3 (Narratives, place-making and oral history maps) further develops the idea of place, looking at both oral histories and maps as meaning-making structures. Narratives are a key in both the creation of maps and in the telling of stories. In oral history maps these narratives contribute to the process of understanding spaces as places. This suggests that when maps are used as the basis for displaying oral histories, new narratives are constructed, combining those of map and stories. Finally, Part 4 (A critical cartography on online oral history maps?) explores the issue of critical cartography associated with online oral history maps, and asks whether the frequent use of technologies such as the Google Maps API has implications for how oral history maps will be read in the future.