An Educational Tool for educators and learners

Oral history Guidelines

An Educational Tool for educators and learners

Guide by Sephai Mngqolo

Sephai Mngqolo presented this paper in December 2002, at the South African History Provincial Conference (Northern Cape Education Department) in Upington. He works at the Living History Department of the McGregor Museum, Kimberley,, and can be contacted on

Before any oral history production, historical events must occur and be memorized, and later told in narrative form. Only then can we produce it in written form. We therefore use oral tradition as an historical source to illustrate the new stories we tell of colonial penetration, African resistance, conquest and eventual freedom. In recent years, oral history has emerged as a powerful tool for recording and preserving unique memories and life experiences of people whose life stories might otherwise have been lost. It enables us to monitor events, feelings, attitudes and the way of life that have been deliberately hidden from the man in the street by governments. We seek to work with our memories, our achievements and our shames, our moments of glory, courage and love for one another, and also the hurts we inflicted upon each other. In doing this, we are able to create a more vivid and accurate picture of our past.

The McGregor Museum's mandate is not so much to tell the citizens of the Northern Cape exactly how to collect oral history, but to support them in this challenging endeavour by providing resources where possible, and guidance, as well as in finding additional resources in their respective areas.


  • Dean, J. (2002). ‘Doing History: Theory, Practice and Pedagogy’, unpublished paper delivered at the October S.A. History Conference, History, Memory and Human Progress, Cape Town.
  • Fines, J. & Nichol, J. (1997). Teaching Primary History, Oxford: Heinemann (Nuffield Primary History Project).
  • Fines, J. & Verrier, R. (1974). The Drama of History, London: New University Education
  • Hexter, J. H. (1971). The History Primer, New York: Basic Books.
  • Wray, D. & Lewis, M. (1997). Extending Literacy: Children reading and writing non-fiction. London: Routledge.