The Oral History of Persia

Iranian oral history is a tradition of passing down to the next generation personal and shared experiences of one’s life, their personal connections to broader national events, and the previously shared experiences of their ancestors going back for thousands of years. These combined social narratives create an oral archive within communities lasting many generations. A few universities in the west have began oral history projects to capture the 20th century events of Iran through the growing population of Iranian migrants to better understand the history, culture, and issues within Iran and the region.

The Iranian Oral History Project at Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and the Research Association for Iranian Oral History (RAIOH) are two examples of this campaign to establish a better understanding in the west of eastern culture and to preserve contemporary history in the lives of people who have lived it. The Harvard Oral History collection focuses on history between the 1920s and the 1970s while the RAIOH is slightly wider between 1919 and 2010 including about a thousand hours of recorded content.

Archival Institute is joining this effort by sharing its interviews with a diverse group of Iranians who have experienced historical events first hand and also some Iranians who are considered experts in fields pertaining to the contemporary history of Iran including sociologists, historians, foreign affairs experts, writers, artists, activists, and many others. This is part of a larger focus for Archival Institute to collect the histories of the entire region while producing historical documentary series for education and entertainment.

Currently, Archival Institute has collected around 200 hours of interview footage. In their own words, our interviewees not only reflect life experiences but also the latest research and understanding of society and history, so that the historiography may also be studied from these accounts. In the oral history project, the interviews are shared with no editing often revealing some of the light conversation between explanations so one can see the comfort level and emotional state of the person being interviewed and the open manner of how the interview is executed.