Uses of Oral History in Museums: A Tool for Agonism and Dissonance or Promoting a Linear Narrative?

Anna Cento Bull, Chris Reynolds


This paper explores the potential for the deployment of oral history in the museum space to challenge hegemonic narratives on the past and enhance multivocality. Following an overview of the general merits of oral history and debates about its use in museums, we set out the arguments in favour of combining such an approach with the notion of agonistic memory. We then move to a comparative analysis between the Schindler’s Factory exhibition in Krakow and the Voices of 68 project at National Museums NI’s Ulster Museum, Belfast to explore the limitations and benefits of digital storytelling as a tool for disrupting linear narratives. In so doing, this article showcases and explains the potency of combining oral history with agonism in encouraging radical multiperspectivity that takes representations of the past beyond the curtailed benefits engendered by approaches focussed on multivocality alone.


Agonism; Oral History; Museums; Northern Ireland; Poland; Contested pasts

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Copyright (c) 2021 Anna Cento-Bull, Chris Reynolds

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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