The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia is a co-operative research project between the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit at the University of Cambridge, and the International Association for Mongol Studies in Ulaanbaatar. The project has two closely connected goals. One is to increase our knowledge of how people’s contexts affect understandings of events and history. The other, equally important, is to construct an on-line database in Mongolian and English of the oral history of Mongolia as a permanent, easily accessible record of Mongolia’s turbulent twentieth century.
In terms of research, we seek to increase our understanding of the relationship between memory, history and people’s situatedness - their political, cultural, social and economic contexts. It is well accepted by researchers that such contexts affect how people remember and understand events, ideas and beliefs. A protester will have a different view of the Democratic Revolution than a high-ranking MAHN official will, to give an obvious example. Despite this, there have been few, if any, truly comprehensive studies of situatedness in a single society. Most research has focused on a relatively narrow group of individuals, and a relatively small number of people. By interviewing literally hundreds of Mongolians from all walks of life about different events and periods in the 20th century, The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia will be able to construct a much more comprehensive picture of how people’s contexts shape – and are shaped by - their memory and understanding than has been possible before.
In order to analyze the massive amounts of data the project we generate, we will create an on-line database. The database is the project’s second, and in many ways, main goal. By the end, it will contain over 600 interviews, with transcriptions in Mongolian, translations into English, audio clips and supporting documents, such as old letters, photographs and diaries. It will be a record of Mongolia’s history in the twentieth century, but it will also be much more. The database will be a portrait of everyday life, customs, and culture – the details vital to understanding how people actually lived that are too often left out of history books. The database will be freely available to the public. We hope it will become a key knowledge bank not only for researchers, but the public in Mongolia and any others interested in Mongolian culture, history, politics and society.
The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia is currently running as a five-year project funded by the AHRC (2007-2012). We have collected over 600 interviews, and are in the process of data analysis, database design and implementation, and so forth. The full project website is scheduled to go live during the summer of 2012.
To be added to a mailing list to be kept up to date with project development, or to contact us with queries or comments, please e-mail info at mongolianoralhistory.org