Corporate Voices: Institutional and Organisational Oral Histories

The Annual Conference of the Oral History Society in conjunction with the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research, University of Sussex
Venue: Fulton Building, University of Sussex, Brighton UK
Date: Friday 5th- Saturday 6th July 2013

Keynotes confirmed include:
Bruce Weindruch (Founder/CEO, History Factory, USA)
Founded in 1979, History Factory is a US-based pioneer of heritage management: leveraging the collective memory of organizations—the stories told, the words used, and their commonly understood meanings—to help implement strategies and tactics that shape the future. Working with clients as varied as Subaru, Campbell Soups, Prudential and Whirlpool, History Factory offers a range of products and services from publications and exhibitions to archival services and oral history.

AbdelAziz EzzelArab (American University in Cairo, Egypt)
Professor Abdelaziz Ezzelarab directs the American University in Cairos Economics and Business History Research Center, whose staff members have interviewed leading figures active in Egyptian business, industry, commerce, and government since the mid-20th century. He will introduce us to a unique oral history archive in Egypt, a land known for its business culture and also one which has been at the forefront of the Arab Spring.

Conference Scope:
What is the business of oral history? What is the relationship between oral history and business? Why have institutions and businesses wanted to record their histories? And how have they used their oral history?
This conference opens up our traditional focus on community and domestic lives to explore the hidden histories of private companies and business, public institutions, hospitals, universities, museums, public utilities, local and national governmental, campaigning bodies and charities. We would like to hear about what interviews with those who work in institutions and organisations tell us about organisational history and memory, the institutional or educational community, and more.
This conference would bring into dialogue historians of business, education and health with oral historians who have been commissioned to work with and within institutions to create and document their oral history. We would like to hear from those, too, who work in public history, scholars of business memoir or biography, and, ideally, institutional commissioners or archivists, and interviewees themselves. We also invite honest and practical sharing of experiences of negotiating with private sector funders or large institutions, and of working with those with high public profiles. The conference will additionally encourage discussion of how these experiences relate to working with the media and the general public, which are often part of the package of an institutionally-framed oral history.

We invite proposals for oral history-based contributions, including papers, panels, presentations, workshops, posters and displays on the following topics:
Personal Voices:
The face of a business: managing directors, exemplary employees, disgruntled employees, minorities, majorities;
Customer or service user perspectives;
Interviewee perspectives - current employees, retirees, or leavers;
Living with or growing up with a corporate employee in the household

Institutional voices:
Public, private and voluntary sectors;
The international and global institution;
Corporate museums and oral history

Organisational memory and oral history:
Corporate memories and inheritance stories;
Myth in the workplace
Big birthday - commemorations, anniversaries and oral history;
Family business and friends reunited

The organisational community and change:
Transition from public body to private corporation;
Impact of rapid decline and/or growth;
Place, space and communities of identity

Role and use of oral history in business settings:
Marketing and branding;
Dealing with critical perspectives of organisations or businesses;
Institutional history as public history

Commissioning oral history:
Funding and ethics;
Negotiating control of corporate sponsored projects or with elite interviewees;
Franchising oral history

Archivist perspectives - creating an oral history archive of an organisation or business;
The future life of an institutional oral history collection;
Business records and oral history

The deadline for submission of proposals has been extended until 7 January 2013. Each proposal should include: a title, an abstract of between 250-300 words, your name (and the names of any co-presenters, panelists etc), your institution or organisation, your email address, and a note of any particular requirements. Most importantly your abstract should demonstrate the use of oral history or personal testimony and be directly related to the history or development of aspects of organisational or corporate history.

Proposals should be emailed to the Corporate Voices Conference Administrator, Belinda Waterman, at They will be assessed anonymously by the conference organisers, and presenters will be contacted in January 2013.

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