12. Use

The number and variety of uses to which oral history materials are suited have been frequently described (some of them are set out in Chapter 2). Several of these applications have been more suggested than realised, however, and even the most widely recognised use - as source material for books and articles - has been on a relatively small scale. As measured by public demand and exploitation tapes and transcripts are not widely acknowledged as archive materials and still remain a comparatively novel record form.

Collecting centres are generally more preoccupied with acquisition than with use. The potential of the materials they hold is often left to others to recognise and exploit, while librarians and archivists perform more passive roles. This may be a satisfactory arrangement for traditional and established reference collections. However, printed, documentary, photographic, film and artistic records have established their market places; oral history and other sound recordings have only been somewhat lightly and tentatively employed. The costly process of oral history creation, in addition to the novelty of the resultant products, makes it politic and necessary for administrators of these materials to be more vigorous in the exploitation of their resources than is typical of institutional collectors. Other considerations apart, future funding of their recording programmes may well depend on showing a dividend which is commensurate to the investment they involve.

At the institution on whose experience this publication is based, most of the identified uses for oral history materials have been tried with varying degrees of success. This has involved not simply permitting these uses but in several cases actually initiating them. It has seemed to be the case that, to achieve wide application of an oral history archive, many of the potential uses may have to be pioneered by the archive itself before they are imitated. Certainly where clients exist they must be informed and encouraged; when potential users can be identified, they have to be educated; and very likely - since the use of tapes and transcripts may still be in its infancy - new markets await creation.

This final section of An Archive Approach to Oral History therefore, summarises the practical experience of one collecting centre, in some areas for the application and dissemination of recordings and transcripts.