Interviews Collection of the Oral History Center
The digital collection of the Oral History Center contains more than 2000 interviews with twentieth-century witnesses, which are divided into different themes and topics, thus presenting a unique collection of professionally created interviews and memories, many of which are related to the theme of cultural opposition.
Vlašská 355/9, 118 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic
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Name of collection
Interviews Collection of the Oral History Center
Provenance and cultural activities
As early as the Oral History Center was established as part of the Academy of Sciences, precisely it became part of the Institute of Contemporary History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. One of the first objectives of the Center was to create a workplace that would, in technical and material terms, be comparable to foreign institutions. This goal has been successful over the years and has been increasingly fulfilling and bringing the Center closer to the world's scientific standard. The digital collections of the Oral History Center have been created to collect and make available the sets of interviews made in accordance with methodological procedures and ethical rules of oral history and historical research. The aim of the Center is to enable registered researchers from the academic community (i.e., researchers, educators, students, employees of archives or museums, etc.) to make use of existing oral-historical sources within their own social sciences research. The COH obtained accreditation from the Czech Office for Personal Data Protection for the regular treatment of sensitive and personal narrator data. The COH physically archives all the recordings made under its projects and also works from projects led by the Center's collaborators who are involved in one part of the research conducted by the Center. Since 2012, all interviews (recordings and transcripts) have been archived in electronic form in the COH Digital Collections, where more than 2,000 interviews are currently being saved. It was only in 2015 that the collections were made available online thanks to financial support from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.
However, the history of the collection and Center began earlier. In 1991 Professor Vaněk visited a lecture by President Vaclav Havel. Vaněk then mentioned that no one was interested in recorded interviews between the Civic Forum and the government. This attracted the attention of Miroslav Vaněk, since he was working on his dissertation, which focused on the Velvet Revolution. So he asked the presidential office to lend him the tapes. At first, he was rejected, but later on, Havel's secretary, Vladimir Hanzel, contacted him. Hanzel was the one who recorded those meetings on the tape recorder. In the end Vaněk never received the tapes since they were already used by someone else, but he received a special number of Student Lists where the transcripts of the first two meetings were published. This interest of Vaněk in the tapes raised the curiosity of Milan Otáhal, who was then a member of the Institute for Contemporary History. Together with Vilém Prečan, Vaněk became involved in research assignments. Vaněk first dealt with the economic and social situation in the 1970s and 1980s in Czechoslovakia. However, a major reversal came in 1999, when Vaněk and his colleagues published the book “The One Hundred Student Revolution”, based on the testimony of the students who participated in the November revolution. Vaněk continued doing research using method of oral history, for which he also was invited by the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he lectured both modern history and oral history. After 2000, Vaněk and other staff members of the Institute for Contemporary History conducted interviews with dissidents and former members of the Communist Party. They did not just focus on historical events, but they also wanted to know the social and family backgrounds of the interviewees, how they got to their position and their hobbies. All these interviews have been authorized by the interviewee. An increasing number of records, as well as greater popularity and recognition of the oral history method, have led to the creation of a separate workplace at the Institute for Contemporary History. The creation of a collection of interviews and its subsequent digitization was the natural consequence of the work of the Center.
The Oral History Center is closely involved in the history of the 20th century. Interviews are always conducted within projects that are operated by the Oral History Centre or its collaborators. As a result, professional interviews with witnesses such as Charter 77 signatories or interviews conducted within the framework of a project exploring the social and political aspects of the existence and development of independent genres and trends in Czechoslovakia from the 1960s to 1989 and many others can be found on the COH's website.
Description of content
The digital collections of the Oral History Center contain interviews that have been uploaded by historians and are accessible in digital form on websites.
The interviews are divided into groups according to the topic and the projects so the researchers can choose the interviews in the following categories: Czech exiles and emigres, Czech society during the period of so-called normalization and transformation: biographical narratives, historical context of applied research in the Czech Republic from 1968 to 2009 for the optimization of research support from public sources, People and Communities of Charter 77, Between State Plan and Research Freedom - Ethnography and Folklore Studies in the Czech Lands in the Context of the Development of Culture and Society in the Years 1945-1989, Political Elite and Dissent in the Period of the Standardization - Biographical interviews, Survey of Czech society during the period of so-called normalization - Biographical narratives of members of workers' professions and intelligence, Social and political aspects of existence and development of independent genres and trends in the Czech Republic from the 1960s to 1989, Social aspects of cottage sub cultures in the study of everyday life during the period of so-called normalization, Students in the period of the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia - biographical interviews, Student generation of 1989 in the time-lapse perspective - Biographical interview after twenty years. Most of the interview are conducted in Czech language.
The digital collections of the Oral History Center contain over 2,000 interviews. The interviews that are processed within the current projects of the Center for Oral History are available to researchers no earlier than one year after the end of the project.
Each thematic collection also contains a more detailed feature and list of narrators.
- video recordings (including oral history recordings): 1000-
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
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Creator(s) of content
- Benda, Václav
- Brabenec, Vratislav
- Gruntorád, Jiří
- Havel, Václav
- Hejdánek, Ladislav
- Janouch, František
- Jelínek, Milan
- Kisza, Herbert
- Mezník, Jaroslav
- Němcová, Dana
- Němec, Jiří
- Oral History Center
- Otáhal, Milan
- Pithart, Petr
- Placák, Petr
- Ruml, Jiří
- Stárek, František
- Trefulka, Jan
- Uhde, Milan
- Uhl, Petr
- Vaněk, Miroslav
- Vladislav, Jan
- Šabata, Jaroslav
- Šimsa, Jan
- Štreit, Jindřich
- Šustrová, Petruška
Important events in the history of the collection
- parts are closed to the public
Schindler-Wisten, Petra. O chalupách a lidech: chalupářství v českých zemích v období tzv. normalizace a transformace = Of second homes and people : country home dwelling in the Czech lands in periods of "normalisation" and "transformation" = Menschen und Wochenendhäuser : Wochenendhauskultur in Tschechien während der sogenannten Normalisations- und Transformationsära. Petra Schindler-Wisten. 2017.
Vaněk, Miroslav. Mocní? a bezmocní?: politické elity a disent v období tzv. normalizace : interpretační studie životopisných interview. Praha: Prostor, 2006.
Vaněk, Miroslav. Orální historie ve výzkumu soudobých dějin. Praha: Ústav pro Soudobé Dějiny AV ČR, 2004.
Author(s) of this page
- Vrtálková, Anna
"Zpovídal Disidenty i členy 'V KSč. Miliardři S Ním Mluvit Nechtějí?" IDNES.cz. Accessed January 17, 2018. https://technet.idnes.cz/oralni-historie-vanek-0uu-/veda.aspx?c=A131205_122350_veda_mla.
"Vaněk Miroslav - Ústav Pro Soudobé Dějiny AV 'R, V.v.i." Ústav Pro Soudobé Dějiny AV ?R, V.v.i. Accessed January 17, 2018. http://www.usd.cas.cz/vyzkumni-pracovnici/vanek-miroslav/.
"Prof. PaedDr. Mgr. Miroslav Vaněk, Ph.D." Orální Historie - Soudobé Dějiny, Fakulta Humanitních Studií Univerzity Karlovy. Accessed January 17, 2018. https://ohsd.fhs.cuni.cz/OHSD-44.html.
"O Hodnotě Změny. Historik Miroslav Vaněk A sametové Revoluce 'obyčejných Lidí?" Novinky.cz. Accessed January 17, 2018. https://www.novinky.cz/kultura/salon/413249-o-hodnote-zmeny-historik-miroslav-vanek-a-sametove-revoluce-obycejnych-lidi.html.
"Orální Historie Je Zalidšťování Dějin, Vysvětluje Historik Miroslav Vaněk." Český Rozhlas. Accessed January 17, 2018. http://www.rozhlas.cz/leonardo/dnes/_zprava/oralni-historie-je-zalidnovani-dejin-vysvetluje-historik-miroslav-vanek--1600917.
Vaněk, Miroslav, Hlaváček, Jiří, interview by Vrtálková, Anna , October 27, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection