The Connected Histories of the BBC

Posted on 24 November 2021 by capturing-the-past — No Comments ↓

Olive Shapley (producer) with Mrs Emerson in the colliery village of Craghead, County Durham BBC North region
Olive Shapley (producer) with Mrs Emerson in the colliery village of Craghead, County Durham BBC North region 01/01/1939 ©BBC


The Connected Histories of the BBC catalogue was produced by the Connected Histories of The BBC Project and makes available a fully searchable, digitised collection of oral history interviews all about the BBC. It allows access – free of charge and for non-commercial use – to a significant proportion of recordings and transcripts held in the BBC’s own Oral History Collection, including the overwhelming majority of those recorded between 1972 and 2001. The catalogue also provides access to interviews from the BBC History of North Regional Broadcasting Collection, the BBC World Service Moving Houses project, and Horizon at 50, a collaboration between the BBC and the Science Museum Group. A selection of BBC-related interviews from the British Entertainment History Project and from the Alexandra Palace Television Society are also included. Finally, it features newly-filmed interviews with leading BBC figures which form the Sussex-BBC Centenary Collection.

Interviews are available in a mix of video and audio-only formats, and are usually accompanied by transcripts. In some instances, there’s more than one interview – and therefore more than one transcript – for each person. We have collated the original metadata and worked to standardize and add to it. It has been enriched with searchable filters, additional biographical details and information.

Connected Histories of the BBC was based at the University of Sussex and funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Project partners included the BBC, the Science Museum Group, the British Entertainment History Project, and Mass Observation.

The project ran from April 2017 to December 2021. Its core aim was to bring into the public realm a significant part of the BBC’s Oral History Collection through digitising the original recordings and transcripts and then creating a new unified catalogue and website where they can be easily searched, listened to, watched, or read.

As well as creating the catalogue and website, Connected Histories of the BBC was responsible for running a number of public events and curating a series of websites for the BBC featuring highlights from the Oral History Collection which appear under the title 100 Voices that Made the BBC. Our aim, beyond making these recordings accessible, has been to create an online environment where they can be explored, not just as individual accounts but as a unified collection, enabling patterns to be identified and links with broader themes and other sources to be discovered.

Header Collage

A selection of interviewees in the Connected Histories of the BBC catalogue. Top Row from Left to Right: Joan Bakewell, Asa Briggs, Deborah George, John Tusa, Mamta Gupta, Olive Bottle / Bottom Row from Left to Right: Julia Zapata, Esther Rantzen, Venera Koichieva, Suluma Kassim , John Birt, Olive Shapley, Mike Phillips

This collage contains a selection of interviewees from the Connected Histories of the BBC catalogue. Top row from left to right: Joan Bakewell, Asa Briggs, Deborah George, John Tusa, Mamta Gupta, and Olive Bottle. Bottom row from left to right: Julia Zapata, Esther Rantzen, Venera Koichieva, Suluma Kassim, John Birt, Olive Shapley, and Mike Phillips.