Interviews with Eyewitnesses to Major Historical Events Soon Available Online to Researchers

Freie Universität Berlin is launching the "Oral-History.Digital" project, which features interviews with groups such as victims of the Nazi regime, citizens of the former GDR, and recent refugees to Germany

Freie Universität Berlin will be presenting the new "Oral-History.Digital" platform on September 25, 2023. This interview portal, which is being funded by the German Research Foundation, will make eyewitness accounts from different institutions and projects that were previously difficult to access available to researchers and others who are interested in history. "Oral-History.Digital" is made up of over 2,000 interviews that tell the stories of not only the victims of National Socialism, but also employees at Berlin’s museums, miners from the industrial Ruhr area, professors, punks, non-combat "construction soldiers" from the former GDR, and refugees from Syria and Ukraine. The launch of the new oral history portal will take place from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday, September 25, 2023. You can follow the livestream here: ( https://www.oral-history­.digital/e­roeffnung/ ). The event will be held in German.

Museums, universities, and foundations will be able to upload their audio and video interviews with transcripts and accompanying material to the research platform, edit them using transcription and metadata tagging tools, and make them more widely available for education and research purposes. Those interested in the platform’s resources can browse the interview collections using filters or full-text search, watch them with subtitles, annotate them, and create citations.

Narrative interviews - a key method of oral history - serve as important sources in historical research and other disciplines, as well as in exhibitions and educational projects. Unfortunately, they are typically scattered across many different institutions and difficult to track down, not made easily accessible, or can only be used on site. "Oral-History.Digital" makes these interviews findable, accessible, and reusable as audiovisual research data. A sophisticated rights management system protects the privacy of the interviewees, while long-term archiving ensures that the files will be available for posterity.

Six partner institutions are involved in "Oral-History.Digital." The largest oral history institutions in Germany - such as the University Library of Freie Universität Berlin, the German Memory Archive within the Institute for History and Biography at the FernUniversität in Hagen, and the Workshop of Memory at the Institute for Contemporary History in Hamburg - are contributing their extensive oral history collections to a joint research infrastructure. Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg is testing the research environment for a study on the oral history of migration. The Bavarian Archive for Speech Signals at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München is supporting the interview archives with long-term archiving and speech recognition, while the Chair of Media Informatics at Universität Bamberg is responsible for the interfaces to standard data.

The "Oral-History.Digital" project was developed using almost thirty pilot archives, including those of the Leibniz Center for Contemporary History Potsdam, the House for the History of the Ruhr, the Westphalian State Museum of Industrial Heritage, the Buchenwald Memorial, the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Memorial, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the University of Erfurt, and Ruhr University Bochum. Each of these institutions brings with it invaluable interview collections as well as a wealth of experience and specific requirements.

As of September 25, 2023, over 2,000 interviews on different historical topics from across several archives will be available for researchers. Interviews were not only carried out with the victims of the Nazi regime, but also with employees at Berlin’s museums, miners from the industrial Ruhr area, professors, punks, non-combat "construction soldiers" from the former GDR, and refugees from Syria and Ukraine. The scope of the project’s interview archive is set to become greater and more diverse in the future.

The "Oral-History. Over the course of the second funding phase, which will last until 2026, its user community will be expanded and its software consolidated. New functionalities will further optimize the editing and search options. Freie Universität Berlin will continue to offer and maintain the infrastructure as an academic service for researchers and archive partners, resulting in a sustainable, long-term operating model. The "Oral-History.Digital" project will be integrated into the German National Research Data Infrastructure through the 4Memory consortium.

The interview portal will be unveiled on Monday, September 25, 2023, in the Henry Ford Building at Freie Universität Berlin. Researchers and experts will discuss potential uses and further prospects for the portal at a workshop the next day. Both events will be held in German and available to watch via livestream.