OH Ethics -- Narrators Naming Third Parties

Kathryn Lockard's picture


I wonder if anyone can point me to good resources on the ethics of including third-party names or stories that include a named third party (from the narrator's perspective) in OH interviews. We are just starting our program and didn't think about this as a potential problem, especially when the reference is not flattering. Resource suggestions would be incredibly helpful.

Thank you!

Katy Lockard, CA
Director, Archives & Records
Catholic Diocese of Savannah

Hello Katy,

We have an LGBTQ oral history project for the Northern Plains and had ethical questions about third parties being outed by narrators. I put a question on H-OralHist and contacted three or four archives with extensive LGBTQ oral history collections. No one had a definitive protocol. We decided not to redact this type of information for two reasons. First, we did not want to be censors. It was the narrator's story, not ours. Second, we would, in effect, be changing the story we were given. When our narrators review their transcripts, there have been two cases where they redacted names of people they outed. In one case, we asked the narrator about doing it because the person was well-known and still in the closet. In the second case, the narrator initiated the redacting.

Larry Peterson
Coordinator, "Breaking Barriers: Harvesting LGBTQ Stories from the Northern Plains"

Hi Katy,

Check out Kevin Bradley and Anisa Puri, "Creating an Oral History Archive: Digital Opportunities and Ethical Issues," Australian Historical Studies Volume 47, 2016 - Issue 1, pp 75-91. They write about a "traffic light" system we developed in the Australian Generations Project to deal, in large part, with the naming of third parties where that naming posed legal or ethical concerns.

Al Thomson
Monash University

Hi Katy,

You can find a relevant discussion in Leslie McCartney's chapter on online accessibility issues and solutions (available in open access at https://hal-amu.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02058169): "Two Oral History Projects, Two Countries, and the Encountered Issues and Subsequent Solutions to Online Recording Accessibility Issues" in Véronique Ginouvès; Isabelle Gras. La diffusion numérique des données en SHS - Guide de bonnes pratiques éthiques et juridiques, Presses universitaires de Provence, 2018.

I also like the UK Data Service's very brief introduction to disclosure assessment: https://www.ukdataservice.ac.uk/manage-data/legal-ethical/disclosure-ass....

For a more detailed sensitivity-review protocol in oral history, see the 4th appendix of the Oral History Society's guide on data protection: https://www.ohs.org.uk/advice/data-protection/.

Best wishes,