Voices from the PastWhat can you learn about British Columbia just by listening?

Throughout human history, people have learned about the past from others who have lived it before them. Oral history recordings are a continuation of that tradition and are a primary record of the past. They are recollections of history as told by someone who was there. Just like letters, photographs and diaries, oral histories can help us better understand British Columbia’s past.

By focusing on everyday people, oral histories challenge the historical record, which often assumes that the only important stories about the past are told by, or have happened to, powerful and prominent people.

The Royal BC Museum and Archives has a wide range of oral history recordings for you to explore. In fact, there are over 4,000 of them! The topics range from British Columbia’s immigration and settlement history, the province during wartime, medical history on the west coast, industrial and labour history, and the traditional stories of First Nations. There is an audio recording for just about any British Columbia topic you might be interested in!

What can you discover about British Columbia’s past by listening? Better yet, what can you contribute?

Check out the read section to learn about how to conduct and record your own oral history interviews! Oral history is not only important for today’s researchers but also for those in the future. Without oral history, most of the personal information of the late twentieth century onward will be lost; oral histories help compensate for the digital age.


Read about how to conduct your own oral history project and be inspired by the writings of other researchers.



Watch oral history projects created by students of past Royal BC Museum school visits.



Listen to a small selection of oral history recordings found in the BC Archives collection.