Oral History Laboratory

Oral History Laboratory (also known as Centre for Oral History Research)

Oral history is the recording of a person’s memories, usually in the form of an interview between the subject and a skilled evaluator and historian. The objective of documenting oral history is to create an original source of eye-witness history, or to document oral traditions and cultures that would otherwise be lost. These resources, once created, can assist domestic or foreign researchers in their primary research without having to refer to the subject themselves.The subject is normally chosen because of their involvement with, and experiences of, a particular historical event, or figure. The information gathered from the interview would then be copied and transcribed, and these copies would be used as teaching and research resources.
The School of History, Politics, and Strategy’s Oral History Centre was established by Prof. Madya Dr. Nadzan Haron. Currently, it is cordinated by Mr. Mohamad Rodzi Abd. Razak and managed by an Assistant Science Officer. A course (SKSE 1063 Kaedah Sejarah Lisan/Oral History Methodology) is offered to first year History students in which they are required to conduct a project based on Oral History. Generally speaking, students taking the course would be expected to select subjects to complete their own recorded oral history interviews. For example, a group of students was recently brought to Termeloh, Pahang State to interview former Communists from the Malay Nationalist Party, and the 10th Regiment of Malayan Communist Party members, including Abdul Manan Chik, Ahmad Muhd. Salleh, Kamaruzaman Teh, and Hj. Ibrahim Mat Dayah.

Previous student projects and subjects include:

  1. The Malay Army
  2. Dr. Mohd. Said and Negeri Sembilan’s UMNO leadership
  3. Oral traditions in Negeri Sembilan
  4. Memali Incident project
  5. Siamese communities in Perlis, Kedah and Kelantan
  6. The Malay Nationalist Party and the 10th Regiment of Malayan Copmmunist Party (PKM)
  7. The Japanese occupation of Malaya and British Military Administration (BMA)
  8. The Malayan Emergency (Darurat)
  9. Gua Musang project
  10. Biography project
  11. The establishment and history of villages and districts
  12. The establishment and development of the National University of Malaysia
  13. The history of Javanese immigration

The Oral History Archive at the Centre keeps the details and recordings  of all the projects conducted by the students, and provides the equipment for students and academic staff to facilitate their research. The contents of the archive are also used as teaching tools.

The Oral History Archive has an visual-audio room for lecturers and students to watch films related to their research. It is open to all UKM students and academic staff for reference. On occasion, the Archive has also been used by governmental and private agencies.

The Importance of Oral History

The stories of the past easily fades into history. This is especially true of people’s testimonies and memories. The history of an event is usually recorded in official accounts and records, but this is not complete without the knowledge of those people who lived through it. Not everyone leave a diary, or translates their life experiences to autobiography. Oral history thus helps us to preserve a more complete picture of the past.

A major problem in reconstructing Malaysian history is the lack of original historical resources. Whilst oral history does not come without its problems (which include assessing the reliability of oral testimony from memory), eye witnesses can often fill in details that were not officially documented. Likewise, the emphasis on the memories of ordinary people, not just those of politicians or those at the centre of an historic event, serves as a counter to official documentation, breathing life back into the historic record.

Oral histories also preserve cultural traditions that may otherwise be forgotten. Many societies in Malaysia pass down their stories and heritage through oral, not written, traditions. Without oral history recordings, many of these colourful cultures would be lost.

As a teaching resource, oral history is engaging and dynamic. Many students find they can relate to the spoken voice in a way that they cannot through text. Used in conjunction with secondary sources, oral history can bring history to life.

The Oral History Lab’s opening hours are as follows:

SONY DSCMonday – Thursday

9.15am – 12.30pm
2.15pm – 4.30pm

Friday

9.15 am – 12.15pm
3.00 pm – 4.30pm

Saturday, Sunday, 
and Public Holidays

Closed