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Oral history and research ethics in the creative arts and higher education

Partington, Matthew



My paper looks at the ethical issues which arise out of human participant research in the visual arts, with particular reference to oral history interviewing. All higher education research which deals with human participants now has to undergo varying degrees of ethical oversight, ranging from Funding Council approval to a Faculty committee. Growing out of ethical concerns over medical research, formal ethical approval has now reached all areas of higher education but the visual arts have been amongst the last to actively engage in ethical oversight of staff and student research.

Given both the widespread use of recorded interviews in visual arts research and the potential to engage with extremely sensitive issues, this paper looks at ways in which examples from the Higher Education arena can demonstrate how careful attention to ethical issues can serve to strengthen the position of oral history as a research methodology. Drawing on my experience as a crafts historian (using video as an oral history tool) and as Chair of my Faculty’s Research Ethics Committee my paper addresses the following practical issues:

Informed consent (including the right to the withdrawal of consent),
Security and safety,
Copyright and

The paper includes audio and video clips from a number of research projects in order to illustrate some of the ethical issues which arise from using oral history as a methodology in the visual arts.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name ‘[Record] [Create]: Oral History in Art, Craft, and Design’, Oral History Society Annual Conference
Start Date Jul 2, 2010
End Date Jul 3, 2010
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords ethics, visual arts, oral history
Public URL