• November 24, 2014

The Belfast Project's Lessons for Oral History: Talk Live With the Experts

Belfast Composite 2

Mary Marshall Clark (left) and Clifford M. Kuhn (right) will discuss the Belfast Project with Chronicle reporter Beth McMurtrie on Wednesday, January 29, at 2 p.m., U.S. Eastern time.

The Chronicle on Sunday published "Secrets From Belfast," the story of a Boston College oral-history project gone awry. The Belfast Project, as it came to be known, recorded the stories of paramilitary members on both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles. The researchers promised interviewees complete secrecy until their deaths. That promise ran aground when the British police sought access to the interviews in a murder investigation.

The affair highlights important questions. How is oral history different from other forms of scholarship? What obligations do oral historians and their colleges have, for example, if a subject reveals sensitive information? Who is allowed to hear these recordings and when? And should oral-history projects be vetted by institutional review boards?

Join Chronicle reporter Beth McMurtrie today for a live Google Hangout with Mary Marshall Clark, director of Columbia University's Center for Oral History Research, and Clifford M. Kuhn, executive director of the Oral History Association, to discuss those and other questions raised by the Belfast Project.

The stream will start promptly at 2 p.m., U.S. Eastern time.

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