The Dawson Oral History Project (DOHP) is committed to an ethical methodological practice. Our students are trained in interviewing techniques that are rooted in the OHA Principles and Best Practices as conceived by the Oral History Association. At DOHP’s core are the three principles of informed consent, mitigation of harm, and the right of withdrawal. A clear elaboration of these principles is available on the website for Concordia University’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling. DOHP interviewers also understand the importance of using the best quality equipment to ensure the preservation and accessibility of the oral history recordings, as a fulfillment of the promise made in the DOHP consent form (which can be downloaded below).
In thinking through the design of this project and archive, DOHP is committed to three central values: responsibility, security, and accessibility. Many of our students’ interviewees have shared aspects of their lives and perspectives that must be responsibly preserved. We also begin with the strong belief that each of these interviews is extremely valuable to the present and to posterity, and therefore must be preserved in a way that retains the physical integrity of the recordings and archive. While DOHP prioritizes the responsible preservation and security of its interviews, we are also committed to making these interviews accessible to interested researchers, and to a wider community of organizations and individuals who may be interested in the experiences and themes discussed in these interviews. The diverse range of interviewees included in our collection, and the personal, narrative nature of the interviews capture the voices and experiences of Québec residents in a way that few primary sources can.
With the interests of the security of our interviewees in mind, DOHP has developed a two-tier system of consent. It is important to us that interviewees understand that their interview may be used for publications, broadcast purposes, documentary production, exhibitions, and funding applications, and that they are informed of this possibility when they sign the consent form. However, given that we cannot specify or predict the particular nature of the public use, and therefore cannot predict if such public usage would be deemed acceptable by the interviewee, we have chosen to demand that every researcher contact the interviewee before making their interview public – a step that goes above and beyond the standards of many academic disciplines. This requirement empowers the interviewee to refuse or request modifications to any particular proposed usage. If a researcher cannot reach the interviewee, we will require that the researcher contact the DOHP administrators, so that we can approve or refuse the proposed usage with the interviewee’s best interests in mind. We believe that this is the safest way to:
- Ensure that interviewees fully understand the nature of their consent at every stage of the process (in the spirit of informed consent).
- Allow access to interviews for research purposes and potential public use, according to our ethical responsibility to fulfill the promises of our consent form to make these interviews accessible.
Therefore, an attempt must be made to contact interviewees prior to any public use of their interview – this ensures the principles of shared authority that we have kept at the core of our ethical decisions in the development of DOHP.
The Dawson Oral History Project has developed a few standardized forms that are to be used by interviewers, interviewees, and interested researchers who are creating and using the oral histories found in the DOHP Archive. They are available in English and in French.
Introduction Letter / Lettre de présentation: is provided to all interviewees before they agree to participate in an oral history recording, the purpose of this document is to ensure informed consent.
Consent Form for Archival Storage / Consentement à l’archivage: is signed by both the interviewer and interviewee; it allows the oral history recording, and all of the associated metadata to be added to the DOHP Archive and made available to interested researchers.
Researcher Agreement Form / Formulaire d’accès aux archives: must be signed by all interested researchers before they are granted access to the DOHP Archive; it ensures that the researchers comply with the Consent Form for Archival Storage.
Consent Form for Public Use / Consentement d’usage publique: is signed by the interested researcher and the interviewee prior to the public use of any portion of an oral history found in the DOHP Archive; it ensures that the interviewee accepts each particular public use of their words.