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National Life Stories: Lives in the Oil Industry

Lives in the Oil Industry was a joint National Life Stories and University of Aberdeen project which documented the origins and evolution of the UK North Sea oil and gas industry through the life histories of people who have worked in, or alongside it.

Oil rig workers on the platform [29KB]

Oil rig workers on the platform (photo: courtesy of Shell UK)


Interviews cover the major changes which have occurred in the UK oil and gas industry in the twentieth century, focusing particularly on North Sea exploration and the impact of the industry in this country. In their own words, oilworkers discuss the skills, hazards and complexity of producing oil. The collection includes more than 170 life story interviews with men and women representing all sectors of the industry - management, off-shore workers, technical professionals and specialists, and personnel from government and regulatory bodies. The archive also includes recordings with people from associated organisations and communities as well as Americans who have been associated with what is arguably the twentieth century's most important industry.

A BBC Radio 4 Archive Hour programme based on the project was broadcast in April 2003 and extracts were used in a programme broadcast in July 2008 marking the twentieth anniversary of the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster.

See also the University of Aberdeen's Lives in the Oil Industry website and the On Charlie exhibition which featured photos taken by Hugo Manson during his visit to the Brent Charlie platform.

Partners and sponsors

  • University of Aberdeen

Accessing the collection

To access oral history material:

  • Search for oral history recordings held at the British Library using the online Sound and Moving Image Catalogue (see useful advice on searching the oral history collections).
  • Onsite access to oral history recordings: The Listening and Viewing Service in St Pancras provides free public access to the oral history collections on an appointment basis. Many digital recordings are also available via SoundServer, a computerised listening facility located in the Humanities Reading Rooms.  SoundServer is also available at the British Library’s site in Boston Spa in Yorkshire.
  • Internet access to selected oral history recordings: The British Library Sounds website gives remote access to a selection of interviews from the Library’s oral history collections. Some recordings are currently only licensed to Higher and Further Education users in the UK, others are available for full public access.

Further information

Contact us

Oral History
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

T +44 (0)20 7412 7405 (Rob Perks, Lead Curator, Oral History  / Director of National Life Stories)
T +44 (0)20 7412 7406 (Mary Stewart, Curator, Oral History / Deputy Director of National Life Stories)
T +44 (0)20 7412 7404 (Elspeth Millar, Archivist, Oral History)