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The Personal Histories Project



The Personal Histories Project invites influential figures in academia to explore the stories behind their professional careers. We are a volunteer, primarily student-run project that organises public events, personal interviews and film and audio-training workshops to pursue this goal.


Founded in 2006 by the oral historian, Dr Pamela Jane Smith, Personal Histories is volunteer-led organisation, based in the Division of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge. It has initially focused on oral history events centred on panel-based discussions, coupled with audience interaction, involving some very influential figures in the sciences. Aside from making the history of science more colourful and accessible, these events allow us to critically evaluate first-hand those views and positions previously only encountered through the fixed nature of the written word. In addition to organising and putting on such events, we produce professional films of each one, together with a written transcript. We publish and also archive these materials; providing for both present and future public discussion of our work. Further, we run professional training workshops in audio-recording, oral-history method, filming and film production techniques in order to equip more people with the skills of recording and publicising oral histories. In this way, we hope to make a real contribution to the understanding of the history and development of academic research.


The Personal Histories Project has been supported by financial grants from Pamela's late husband, the Africanist, Thurstan Shaw, the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, the Newton Trust, the Roberts Fund, the Thriplow Charitable Trust, Mr John Pickles and many anonymous donors.