Looking for other OH/environmental history scholars

Mary Closmann Kahle's picture

Hi, all. I'm writing my master's thesis based on an oral history project I did on an environmental movement in Austin, Texas. I have not yet seen any scholarly writing on OH methodology specific to environmental history and was hoping to hear from this community regarding scholarship along these lines. Thank you for any leads.

Mary Closmann Kahle

Mary, you might check out

Telling Environmental Histories: Intersections of Memory, Narrative and Environment (eds Katie Holmes and Heather Goodall Palgrave Studies in World Environmental History, 2017)

Oral History and the Environment: Global Perspectives on Climate, Connection, and Catastrophe
Edited by Stephen M. Sloan and Mark Cave

Shelley Trower (ed.), Place, Writing, and Voice in Oral History, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011

there are also relevant articles in all of the major oral history journals

cheers, Al Thomson

Hello Mary,

You might be interested in some work being done in Australia, especially at La Trobe University in Melbourne:

Karen Twigg

Also Rachel Goldlust:

And Katie Holmes:

There is also an oral history collection in our National Library that could be of interest.
'Environmental awareness in Australia oral history project'

Kind regards,
Alice Garner
Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne

Hi Mary,

Kathryn Newfont's book, "Blue Ridge Commons: Environmental Activism and Forest History in Western North Carolina" (University of Georgia Press, 2012) is one example of how oral history can be used in the context of environmental history. The book demonstrates an argument for using the tools and methods of social movement history to more accurately depict environmental movements and ecological history.

I hope this is helpful to you!
Sarah Dziedzic

Hi Mary, given your topic, as well as all the excellent Australian work already suggested, you might be interested in a recent book of mine - Georges River Blues: Swamps, Mangroves and Resident Action, 1945-80. (ANU Press 2022 - and free on the web!). This book uses oral testimony extensively for the interactions from all sides around the conflicts, but it also tries to look at the agency of the non-human world in shaping the terms and conditions of those conflicts.

I would suggest contacting my former advisor Dr. Andrew Hurley at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He has done work on environmental history and has done some oral history projects, although I'm not sure if there is an overlap (or if anything was published yet).


Thank you for all the great replies - I'll look into these.

Adding onto what others have posted, Kathy Newfont's & Debbie Lee's edited book, The Land Speaks: New Voices at the Intersection of Oral and Environmental History might help.

Troy Reeves

I appreciate all the feedback; this is extremely helpful.


Mary Closmann Kahle

A couple of items from the UK to add to the conversation!

National Life Stories (NLS) at the British Library has involvement in a number of projects encompassing environmental history:
An Oral History of British Science: https://www.bl.uk/projects/national-life-stories-oral-history-of-british...
An Oral History of Farming, Land Management and Conservation in Postwar Britain: https://www.bl.uk/projects/national-life-stories-oral-history-of-farming
NLS is the archive partner for two exciting projects just underway:
Oral History of the Environmental Movement at Royal Holloways: https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/research-and-teaching/departments-and-sc...
Renewing biodiversity through a people-in-nature approach (RENEW) at the University of Exeter (specifically the X3 strand): https://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_898086_en.html

The Oral History Society (UK) is also supporting debate and knowledge exchange via the Special Interest Group for Environment and Climate Change (ECC SIG): https://www.ohs.org.uk/environment/ . Rib Davis, Chair of this Special Interest Group writes: "I am not sure that there is an oral history methodology that is specific to environmental history. However, Leslie McCartney (Curator of Oral History at University of Alaska Fairbanks), who is very experienced in this field, may have some pointers for you. I would also be interested in knowing more about your own work, and including it in our world map of environment and climate change oral histories. Perhaps you would like to contact me at rib.s.davis@gmail.com."

With best wishes

Mary Stewart

Lead Curator, Oral History
Director, National Life Stories
The British Library
96 Euston Road

Follow us! @BL_OralHistory

Thank you for this great info.!

Mary Kahle
Austin, TX

Mary, I'd like to call your attention to a new oral history project in Hawaii.

Land Stories: Farming and Kaua’i Culture.
"Land Stories is about preserving the cultural wealth of our island as a basis for building respect and appreciation for one another and the land we share and depend upon. It’s about providing our community with a rich history of this precious land and how to care for it. It’s about building historical perspective and inspiration for present and future generations to sustain,
protect, and care for our beloved ‘aina."

For more information, please contact
Project Director Angela Zusman at angela@storyforall.org

Thanks for initiating this discussion. The resources all very interesting,
Nancy MacKay

NOAA's Voices Oral History Archives (https://voices.nmfs.noaa.gov) is also a valuable resource/enormous qualitative data set. The archive contains 2300 oral histories that relate to the changing environment, from 1895 to the present and Downeast Maine to Samoa. It's a rich collection of eyewitness testimonies of the changing climate. And a repository for folks in and out of the agency to deposit their materials. Some major areas of focus include:

* Climate change
* Ecosystem Based Management
* Institutional knowledge
* Social impacts of federal regulations
* Traditional Ecological Knowledge
* Underrepresented populations
* Perceptions of risk
* Science production
* Culture, traditions, values
* Natural and unnatural disasters
* Satellite data and research
* Vulnerability and resilience
* Social change

Always happy to share more about the program!

Thank you,
Molly Graham (she/her)
Oral Historian/Program Manager
Voices Oral History Archives
(207) 807-0109

Thanks so much - these are great resources and such valuable projects.