Our oral history collections chart the experiences of those with disabilities, ill-health and mental health issues.
About the collection
The British Library has an active policy to make sure that the views and memories of people of every background, culture and occupation are represented. We hold a number of collections and have taken part in collaborative projects that help to chart the experiences of those, both old and young, with disabilities, ill-health or with mental health issues. These collections are in addition to our oral histories of medicine and health professionals and medical science.
What is available online?
- Diabetes Stories includes all of the recordings from An Oral History of Diabetes, a collection of 51 life-story interviews with people diagnosed with diabetes between 1927 and 1997. It was recorded for the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, and funded by the Wellcome Trust.
- The Listening Project is an audio archive recorded by the BBC of one-to-one conversations between friends and relatives. It includes the topic of health.
- Observing the 1980s includes interviews with people reflecting on HIV and AIDS.
- Disability Voices explores cerebral palsy, disability athletics, education, hearing loss and polio. The interviews come from a number of important collections, including: Speaking for Ourselves: an Oral History of People with Cerebral Palsy, Unheard Voices: interviews with deafened people and Oral Histories of Disabled People's Experience of Education.
- How Was School? is a resource for schools produced by the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) and is based on interviews from the project Oral Histories of Disabled People's Experience of Education.
What is available in our Reading Rooms?
- The Life Testimony and Health Promotion Project (HEA/UEL) was a joint project between the University of London and the Health Education Authority which sought to address gaps in existing knowledge about health beliefs and highlight the value of personal testimony as an evidence base for health promotion. It focuses on three priority groups: homeless, refugees, and children and 'looked after' children (also known as children 'in care').
- The HIV/AIDS Testimonies is a collection of life story interviews with people with HIV and AIDS. The interviewees were recorded between 1995-2000 and were re-approached and interviewed again between 2005-2008. This project, led by Dr Wendy Rickard, was conducted in conjunction with the University of East London and then London South Bank University.
- ‘Invisible Women’: Positively Women Oral History Project is a collection of 16 oral history interviews with women living with HIV; the interviews reveal how HIV has affected them socially, at work and in their family lives. The project was carried out by Positively UK as part of an HLF funded project in 2007 and 2008.
- Imaging Patient Zero: interviews about the history of the North American HIV/AIDS epidemic is a collection of 50 interviews recorded by Dr Richard McKay between 2007 and 2008, as part of his DPhil to investigate the concept of ‘patient zero’ and the early years of the North American HIV/AIDS epidemic. .
The Haemophilia and HIV Life History Project and HIV in the Family: an oral history of parents, partners and children of those with haemophilia and HIV collections are made up of 30 and 36 interviews respectively and document the history and lives of those living with these conditions, as well as the experiences of the families of those infected. Extracts from both projects feature on the Living Stories website.
- The Mental Health Testimony Archive (a collaborative project with Mental Health Media - now a part of MIND) holds 50 life story video interviews with mental health service users, including those who lived in the psychiatric asylums (long-stay patients), as well as 'revolving door' patients and those with a mental illness diagnosis in the second half of the twentieth century in England and Wales. The interviewers had themselves experienced mental health problems.
- A Fit Person to be Removed includes 17 personal accounts of life in a 'Mental Deficiency Institution' (Meanwood Park Hospital, Leeds) from long-term residents. Many had been incarcerated under the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act. Interviewees speak out about their ways of coping with the effects of institutional life and, for some, coming to terms with rejoining the wider community as a result of changing mental health and 'community car' practices.
- Multiple Sclerosis interviews is a collection of three life story interviews with women with multiple sclerosis, focusing on issues of fitness and exercise.
- Domino Films: 'Out of Sight' is a series of some 50 video interviews with older blind, deaf and physically disabled people focusing on the years before the National Health Service.
- Changing Society: Oral History of Scope is an institutional history project about Scope.