UNESCO Oral Archives Initiative


The purpose of the Oral Archives Initiative, which was launched in 2006, is to collect personal accounts on UNESCO's history from persons who have been closely associated with UNESCO activities, either as staff members or in cooperation with the Organization (for example as members of governing bodies, NGOs, National Commissions or in their capacity of national counterparts). A special effort will be made to carry out interviews with persons who have field experience and persons who live outside France.

The conviction that such an initiative is both timely and necessary is the driving force behind this initiative. Timely because it is urgent to interview those UNESCO players who took part in the aspirations and work of the early, pioneer years of the Organization. Necessary for the sake of UNESCO's collective memory (particularly important for new staff members and for the building of a common institutional identity) and for the benefit of historians and other scholars.

"Individuals make a difference", state the authors of "UN Voices", an oral history published in 2005 by the United Nations Intellectual History Project (UNIHP). By interviewing witnesses and players, the patchwork that constitutes the history of UNESCO will become more complete, more alive. Individuals made UNESCO what it is today, they "made it happen", obviously in a certain social, political, economic and cultural context, but still leaving marks on the what, how and why things happened. Oral archives can complement written sources by adding insights, information, nuances, colours, ideas and research trails. These interviews can help us better understand the past.

Since the launch of the Oral Archives Initiative in 2006 a number of former staff members and other persons associated with UNESCO's history have been interviewed. Some of these interviews have been transcribed and these transcriptions will be made available for interested reseachers. For more information, pease contact archives@unesco.org.