Oral history research centres in Latvia
Oral history as a research method and collection of sources began with the «People’s Archives» programme at the Latvian Culture Foundation in 1988. The prominent Latvian poet Imants Ziedonis encouraged the public movement to collect and compile memories. This movement was also supported by Latvians living abroad. The international development of biographical research allowed the «People’s Archives» to take a scientific direction and continue as a research project from 1992 onward. It modelled itself on the Oral History Archive at the British Library in London.
The collection of written memoirs started by the Latvian Culture Foundation’s «People’s Archive» is now held in the Department of Manuscripts and Rarities of the University of Latvia Academic Library, while the first life-story audio recordings form the basis of the National Oral History (NOH) research and collection.
This was not the only collection that amassed a large number of memories in the late 1980s and 1990s. The fresh, open atmosphere and glimmer of freedom on the horizon as well as the rapid liberation from Soviet censorship led to an accumulation of memories in newly established public organisations such as the Latvian Writers’ Union and the Popular Front. Gradually, these collections of memories became the responsibility of professional institutions.
In addition to NOH research, other research centres, archives and collections grew and developed, the task of which was not only to collect, compile and interview, but also to research, share knowledge and train others in oral history methodology.
New possibilities were opened up by technologies (audio and video recording, computers) – a researcher armed with a portable voice recorder acquires life testimonies and uses a biographical approach that «analyses the relationships between individual lives, social structures and historical processes, as well as explores life stories and storytelling» ( Baiba Bela).
The NOH project has created this website to help all interested parties to access the accumulated knowledge of oral history in Latvia.