We do not have a suitable pattern for oral history.

Gholamreza Azari Khakestar

Interviewer: Maliheh Kamaledin

Translated by: Mohammad Karimi

Gholamreza Azari Khakestar said: “We still do not have a suitable pattern for oral history,” and presented his article by the title of “Oral History of Hoveyzeh Reconstruction”. He is an expert of interviewing at Organization of Libraries, Museums and the Documentation Center of Astan-e Quds-e Razavi . He participated in the 2nd Oral History Conference in Oct 2010.
There are many interviews with Azari about oral history in different fields such as physicians, aqueducts, Mashhad spinning company, and etc. He is about to publish a number of books, such as: The Pioneers of Mashahd, Documents of Troops formation in Eastern Persia during Qadjar era, and Oral history of Howeyzeh Reconstruction. He has a weblog for oral history.  

Iranian Oral History Website had an interview with him as follow:

How long have you been active oral history?
I started it professionally in 2004.

What are the projects that have you done up to now?
My first project was “1941 oral history of Mashhad”. Then, Mashhad was occupied by Russians and the town was not in a normal situation. We made some interviews with people involved in this event; with ordinary people or the officials. It is a good work. Many of those people are not leaving.

Name some of you professional projects in oral history?
Oral history of Medicine in Mashhad that was on my weblog for some weeks; and the other one is the oral history of administrative structure of Astan-e Quds Razavi. I should say this structure has changed and expanded gradually. In this regard I interviewed with the officials and managers for about 400 hours. We also gathered good information about “History of Industry in Astan-e Quds-e Razavi”; a part of this project was about spinning company. It seems to be a simple matter but needs more explanations. During the interviews, we understood this company has been the first spinning company in the east of country. At that time this company has been the center for the activities of Hezb-e Tudeh (Mass Party). We could record many of their memoirs observations from 1940s.
In another project we analyzed the role of factories in Islamic Revolution and Iran-Iraq War. In this project we recorded about 150 hours of interviews that we are now arranging and editing them.
My last work which was delivered in the 2nd Oral History Conference was Hoveyzeh Oral History. The oral history section of the Organization of Libraries, Museums and the Documentation Center of Astan-e Quds-e Razav decided to record the memoirs of people involved in Hoveyzeh reconstruction and other experts in this regard. Oral History of Hoveyzeh Reconstruction is a new approach toward War Oral History. Up to now reconstruction of war zones have never been considered as the main subject. For Astane Quds that has been a pioneer in reconstruction of war zones, gathering the important memoirs of Hoveyzeh reconstruction is a part off war’s history. In these memoirs the problems of reconstruction of Hoveyzeh are presented by the officials, particularly the reconstruction problems in 1982. Beside interviews, the big amount of documents also shows the contributions by Astan-e Quds in Hoveyzeh.
I have also made some interviews about 1953 coup with a number of history professors that some have been published in History Research Quarterly.

What are you looking for by you Oral History Weblog?
In 2007 ther was noe internet source for Oral History except the National Library and Documents Organization. So, I launched this weblog to present the activities in this regard. I try to upgrade it twice every month. I use my own or other friends article or the news in this weblog. But now Oral History Website is doing the job stronger and wider.

What is you idea about the difference between Oral History and memoirs? Is there any difference?
I think the compilation of memoirs exclusively is quite different from oral history in one or more subjects by active interviewing and editing.

What do you think an interviewer should consider in an active interview for oral history?
Firstly, we should look for the people who have never had an interview. The ones who have had interviews before, even for 3 hours, may repeat the previous matters; except when the interviewer is an expert and can gather useful information in 30 sessions or some hours of interview. The interviewer should enough material and document in hand to make the interview more important.
If we consider a historic trend, there are no common memoirs; since every one looks at the matter from his/her own point of view, although the event is the same. Being familiar with the atmosphere of interview and interviewee is also important; e.g. the interviewer should know the political orientation of the interviewee. It can happen if the interviewer can make a deep relation with the interviewee. I should add audio interview is more practical than the visual one; because oral history is meant by voice. Actually, visual interview is a completely different matter in documentary works.

How do you evaluate the Oral History situation in Iran?
Unfortunately this situation is awful and the number of experts is so low! In other words each person is following his own way; I think we still do not have a suitable pattern of oral history; each center has its own point of view and in this way documentation is a hard job. I suggest that Oral History Association which is going to be founded by Oral history Website should present a methodology for this matter and make a good work to inform others about it. This way, there would be no more parallel works; I mean at the time when a center is studying a subject, all other centers also start working on it; or when somebody finds an interviewee, everyone goes to interview him/her after some time. But we should look for new figure and subjects.

But you said each person is following his/her own point of view?!
Yes, but if we are the send interviewer we should be professional enough to find new aspects; for this, we need a good number of interview sessions in order to get more familiar with the interviewee and make it possible for him/her to open what he/she has in mind.

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