Oral histories of museum and library professionals

Kings Library at the British Library
Kings Library at the British Library. Image courtesy of Clive Sherlock

We have oral history collections about the working lives of archivists, librarians, museum curators and information professionals.

About the collection

Many of our oral history collections give an insight into the working life of archivists, librarians, museum curators and information professionals. We also have a number of collections focusing on British heritage organisations and institutions.

What is available online?

  • An Oral History of Oral History is an ongoing British Library-funded programme of interviews which started in 2003 with the aim of recording the pioneers and leaders of oral history in the UK dating from the 1950s onwards. The collection so far includes over 30 interviews, of which fourteen are available online.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Museums, libraries and archives

Heritage organisations

  • The National Trust Sound Archive is an ongoing collection of interviews recording the experiences of those that worked in properties now owned by the National Trust between the 1920s and the present day, recalling daily life, the families that lived in the properties, and descriptions of the houses and gardens.
  • The British Council Oral History collection covers the careers of prominent employees of the British Council.
  • Oral History of Oral History in the UK is a growing series of interviews with oral historians and others involved in the production and preservation of oral histories, including the Oral History Society and the development of UK oral history.
  • The Society of Antiquaries collection is recordings of Sir Mortimer Wheeler addressing the first South Asian Archaeology Conference in 1971, and Dame Joan Evans, interviewed by Professor Norman Hammond in 1975.
  • The Charleston Trust collection comprises recordings of Duncan Grant in conversation with Quentin Bell about his connection with Charleston. Angelica Garnett (née Bell) and Grace Higgens, former housekeeper at Charleston, also speak.
  • An Oral History of the Courtaulds at Eltham Palace is a a National Life Stories project funded by English Heritage comprising interviews with people connected with Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, mainly during the period of the Courtaulds’ residence at Eltham Palace 1936-1940s.
  • The Leaders of National Life collection includes an interview with Jennifer Jenkins, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the Royal Institute of British Architects, former Chair of both the National Trust and President and the Ancient Monuments Society.