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Welcome to COHA!

Welcome to the web site of the Canadian Oral History Association (COHA). Use this site to learn more about COHA and oral history in Canada.

CFP: "Confronting Mass Atrocities"

Spring 2013 Special Issue of Oral History Forum d'histoire orale. For details, check
Deadline: 1 August 2012

Open Call For Submissions to Oral History Forum d'histoire orale

Oral History Forum d'histoire orale is the online journal of the Canadian Oral History Association. It serves as the premier meeting place for scholars, archivists, librarians, community activists and others who use oral history in their explorations of the past and present. The Forum invites the submission of scholarly articles, reviews (books, new media, exhibitions, film, theatrical productions, etc.), discussions, artwork, annotated interviews, and other contributions in the field of oral history and oral tradition. Check the Information For Authors page for formatting and submission guidelines. Submit queries and contributions to Submit suggestions for reviews of books, new media, exhibitions, etc. to Reviews Editor, Sharon Wall, at

Search for oral histories in Canada

Use the Guide to Oral History Collections in Canada to search for oral history collections at archives around the country. You can now add new records to the Guide by clicking add a record.

On this site . . .

Become a member of COHA to receive access to the newest issue of Forum. Download the membership form and mail it to us. (COHA has one of the best membership rates of any professional association!)

To learn more about oral history, click on the link 'Reference'.  There, you will find a substantial list of publications. Under 'Links' you will find links to international oral history associations, Canadian oral history centres, archives, and projects, online guides to research ethics, Canadian copyright, handbooks and guides to oral history theory and practice, and links to websites that help you choose the right recording equipment.

The best way to meet other members of COHA and other oral historians around the country, and to discuss the new developments of COHA and Forum over the next years, sign up for our email discussion forum under the link 'listserv.'

What is Oral History?

For centuries the communication of historical information was exclusively oral. With the advent of writing, however, people came to rely almost entirely on written documents for information about the past, but much that was communicated orally was lost. The advent of sound recording technology has once more enabled students of the past to collect and use information communicated by speech.

Oral history, therefore, refers to recorded interviews with individuals about the past, or first-person reminiscences. The primary form of the oral history document is the recorded human voice. This document, in turn, may be applied as informational source material or directly in sound or transcribed form.

Among those who create and use oral history are professional historians, family and local historians, journalists, broadcasters, archivists, educators, folklorists and sociologists. The Canadian Oral History Association recognizes these practitioners and other kinds of users and is open to those in allied fields who use sound recordings as cultural records.

Why is COHA needed?

As the range of possibilities for the use of magnetic tape became evident, more and more people began to use the tape recorder in historical and other research. Few had much familiarity with the technology involved or the myriad problems that arise in interviewing and recording situations. Little had been written on this subject and researchers learned from trial and error. Lack of contact led some individuals and groups to duplicate efforts. Moreover, the results displayed a great variation in quality both of sound and content. The preservation of sound recordings also required new archival procedures, new types of finding aids, a new interpretation of copyright, and a set of ethics to govern the practice and use of oral history.

The Canadian Oral History Association was formed to help the diverse individuals and groups who express an interest in oral history and to deal with these problems by providing a clearing-house for information and a link among projects underway across Canada.

What does the Canadian Oral History Association do?

The Canadian Oral History Association publishes the Forum, an annual review containing a selection of papers on oral history in Canada, support and education. The Forum was this dissiminated in print format from 1975 to 2006. Since 2007, it has been published an online journal only, since 2010 it has been published by Athabasca University Press. Forum and this web page disseminate information on all aspects of oral history and endeavour to stimulate quality research as well as to encourage high standards for the creation, preservation and use of oral history documents. The Association also sponsors national conferences to bring together practitioners for the exchange of information and experience and to promote the development or oral history in the different regions of Canada.


This educational non-profit association is formed to:

a) encourage and support the creation and preservation of sound recordings which document the history and culture of Canada.

b) develop standards of excellence and increase competence in the field of oral history through study, education and research.

c) work with and support any other association or institution whose objectives are consistent with those of the association.

COHA Executive

Nolan Reilly

Professor of Canadian History at the University of Winnipeg. His interests include oral and public history and his research focuses on working-class and immigration history.

Alexander Freund

Teaches oral history, migration history (Canada, USA, and worldwide), and German history. He is an associate professor of History and holds the Chair in German-Canadian Studies.

Janis Thiessen

COHA's secretary-treasurer, editor of Oral History Forum d'histoire orale, and assistant professor of History at the University of Winnipeg. Her interests include the 20th century history of labour, business, and religion, as well as food history and oral history.

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