The National Archives Organizes a Workshop on Oral History Standards

The National Archives Organizes a Workshop on Oral History Standards

The National Archives Organizes a Workshop on Oral History Standards
For the Administrators and Staff of Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD)


The National Archives of the United Arab Emirates organized a workshop at its headquarters for the staff of Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD). It addressed the NA’s Oral History methodology, which started with a selection of narrators, the field challenges the researcher faces, and how to conduct and pivot the interviews. Later, these interviews undergo phases of transcription, sorting, editing, analyzing, drafting, writing, and eventually are turned into a research logging and documenting the nation's memory. This workshop meets some of the Environment Agency’s strategic objectives.
Regarding the workshop, Dr. Aisha Bilkhair, Director of the Research and Knowledge Services Department, said that the National Archives’ interest in oral history started when His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, issued the Federal law No. 7 for 2008 regarding the National Archives. Article (1) of the Law is dedicated to oral history and states that, “An oral archive is information orally gathered by the Center, and is recorded in writing and audio form, thus supplementing already existing knowledge or filling gaps therein, or providing information that has never been recorded before, and are added to the Center's holdings after being officially documented.”
Dr. Aisha Bilkhair added that the National Archives’ quest to gather and preserve oral history in accordance with the best international practices and standards prompted it to become a distinguished member in specialized international agencies and organizations.
The Director of the Research and Knowledge Services Department pointed out that the National Archives seeks to promote the importance of oral history in monitoring the past of parents and grandparents in UAE society. On these grounds, the NA gave a series of training workshops and lectures in state universities, institutes, and bodies that are interested to collect and save oral history based on scientific research methodology and how to conduct oral history interview in accordance with the best practices and the highest standards.  
Ms. Maitha Al Zaabi, Head of the Oral History and Genealogical Studies Section, started the workshop dedicated to the administrators and staff of EAD by introducing the National Archives. She gave a brief on the establishment, the development, and the legalization of the Oral History Project. She pointed out that the project is concerned with the biographies of individuals, and the narration of their memories, the details of their lives, and the lifestyle they have experienced in the past in political, economic, social, and cultural aspects. She noted that each one of the elderly contributed to the founding of the UAE and had a valuable experience.
The Head of the Oral History and Genealogical Studies Section reviewed the themes of the workshop, which deal with the standards of the oral history researcher, the quality of the interviews, the learned administrative models the in interviews, the importance of committing to confidentiality and privacy, in addition to guarding against to loss of recordings and consent forms.
Ms. Shareena Al Qubaisi, Oral History Unit Head, took up the second part of the workshop and reviewed the early phases of starting the Oral History Project and the collaboration with the University of Berkeley in order to learn the international standards and to apply them. She touched upon the phases of the oral history interview, starting with choosing the narrator, communicating with him/her, collecting information, setting the interview date for recording the dialogue in addition to identifying the main themes and the meaningful questions that add new elements to the oral history record. She also explained how the interview proceeds and how to decipher the dialect in addition to publishing and documenting the interview to use it and make it available to researchers. 
The Head of the Oral History Unit supported the themes she discussed in the workshop devoted to the EAD’s administrators and staff with some acoustic models from previous interviews, and some edited interviews that were published in Liwa, which is a refereed academic journal issued by the National Archives. Finally, she showed the administrators and staff the National Archives’ use of social networking for its Oral History Section.