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Western Cape DCAS launches a Transveral Oral History Framework

{image_1}On Wednesday 4 September 2015, the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) launched a Transversal Oral History Framework and the Dulcie September Travelling Exhibition. In her address DCAS Chief Director of Cultural Affairs, Hannetjie du Preez, linked these initiatives affirming the important role of oral history and the way in which it enriched the written record saying, “Our Museum Service put this exhibition together through using information received through interviews with friends and family of Dulcie September.”

Recordings of interviews with September’s family, friends and comrades were formally handed over to the Archives. They will be entered into a provincial oral-historydata-base and will, in time, be made accessible online.

Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport reiterated the important role of the DCAS saying:

“We have a duty to keep our histories alive in our communities and within government so that future generations can celebrate our heritage. The documenting of oral histories is one way in which the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport ensures that past experiences are not lost, but rather made available for future generations.”

The Framework comprises four parts:

  • Part 1 noting that archives, museums, libraries and other heritage institutions make extensive use of oral history as “a transformational mechanism through which past imbalances are addressed, as well as a therapeutical mechanism to deal with South Africa’s turbulent past”. This suggests that the Framework is intended to provide guidelines and ethical standards for those engaged in collecting oral histories.
  • Part 2 outlines the legislative mandate and policy environment linking oral history to the concept of ‘living heritage’ as defined in the 1996 White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage, the 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. While South Africa has no legislation or policy that regulates the production, management and use of oral history, the Framework identifies and lists a number of laws policies that play a role in regulating oral history practice.
  • Part 3 sets out the custodial role of the Western Cape Archives and Records Service as a repository for all original oral history material collected by the staff of the Western Cape Provincial Government. Of particular significance to researchers is the intention to develop a Western Cape Oral History Database and to make transcripts of interviews accessible electronically.
  • Part 4 details a number of phases in the oral history process that provides guidelines for practitioners. These include: ‘developing questions or guides’, ‘setting up the interview’, ‘the interview’ and ‘the post interview phase’.
  • A bibliography and a sample Interview Release Form are included as appendices.

The development of the Framework goes a long way towards regulating oral history practice and extending the range of resources available to those with an interest in the history of the Western Cape. It is a positive move and one that, we hope, will foster and encourage a deeper exploration of the role of oral history and memory in the complex story of the Western Cape. As DCAS Head of Department Brent Walers said, “this gives us the opportunity to capture voices that have not been heard in the past”.

For more information see the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport website.

Click here to download a copy of the Oral History Framework document.


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