Setting the Stage
Curation refers to the long-term care and management of historical documents, in order to ensure maximum access for the present and the future. It includes the archival process but goes beyond it. There are some principles of curation that curators apply to oral history. Oral histories need a physical home and, increasingly, a virtual home. They need an administrator who understands the organizational structure of the holding institution, the physical and intellectual characteristics of oral histories, the technical requirements of preserving them, and the user audience. Since oral histories have special needs and often get buried in the backlog, the curator must advocate on their behalf to funding agencies and policy makers. Meticulous record keeping is essential to a well-managed archive. Rights management for oral histories includes tracking restrictions, intellectual property rights, and permission to use. A corollary to preservation is access: archives have a mission to make their holdings available to users.