Creating a digital community oral history archive

LGBT Foundation is a national charity delivering advice, support and information services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) communities. This project recruited volunteers to use online tools to preserve the oral histories of LGBT activists in Greater Manchester. Volunteers were trained in oral history techniques and how to use tools such as Zoom to conduct, record and transcribe interviews.

Photo by Elyssa Fahndrich on Unsplash

Creating a digital community oral history archive

This ‘how to’ guide was produced as part of Digitally Democratising Archives (Opening Archives) an action research project, designed and led by The Audience Agency as part of the Digital Skills for Heritage’s Connected Heritage programme.

1. Project overview

LGBT Foundation is a national charity delivering advice, support and information services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) communities.

This project came about because the heritage and history of LGBT activism in Greater Manchester is not currently well represented in existing archive collections.

The project recruited volunteers to use online tools to preserve the oral histories of LGBT activists in Greater Manchester. Volunteers were trained in oral history techniques and how to use tools such as Zoom to conduct, record and transcribe interviews.


2. Users and needs

  • As a volunteer interviewer, I need to be confident in using online tools to conduct oral history interviews
  • As an interviewee, I need a seamless interview experience
  • As a member of the LGBT community, I need to access and explore my community’s history


3. Digital technology and tools

Clean Feed

Clean Feed records high-quality audio in .wav format, which is preferred by our partner Manchester Central Library. Users required guidance on how to use the tool but no sign-up is required.


  • £25 p/m



Zoom is a cloud-based conferencing service used to hold video and/or audio interviews. Using Zoom enabled a tertiary tech supporter to join the call and allows closed captions, a backup audio recording and privacy through password protection.


  • Free option available, £11.99 p/m uses artificial intelligence to transcribe audio into text. Using allowed volunteers to access scripts online and edit any mistakes without having to download the audio file. It is very user friendly, and includes features such as slowing down audio to make transcriptions easier.


  • £10 p/m



Audiogram is an online tool which creates engaging video content from audio files, allowing the user to create a visual background and subtitles. This was key as the transcribed interviews are published on YouTube, allowing users to read along in an engaging format.


  • £15 p/m


Microsoft Forms

Microsoft Forms is a part of Microsoft Office 365, and allows the creation of simple online forms. These were used to correspond with volunteers and interviewees, allowing us to easily coordinate project timings and feedback. Users were considered in the wording and type of questions used, with most questions optional and all replies anonymous to encourage honesty.


  • Pre-existing core service


4. Project stages


Understanding the ethical collection of oral histories and its use is key to consider. Write clear role descriptions for interviewees and interviewers to both set expectations and understand what you as an organisation are responsible for.

Understanding the purpose of your project, the scope of a volunteer’s responsibility and their time commitment will help in recruitment.

Involve the community

Involve community members from conception. You must know where your community is and work through their networks rather than expect them to come to you. The initial ask can be informal, only covering key points such as the purpose of the project, the time commitment required and any reimbursement. Allow at least three months for recruiting interviewees and interviewers.

Contact interviewees directly

Keep track of who is involved in your project using a tools such as Outlook, where you can organise correspondence, and OneNote, for creating tables to match interviewers and interviewees. Use Microsoft Forms to track availability of the project members.

Training volunteers

First, do your research to ensure you are using the simplest software or tool for the job. Then, provide a step-by-step guide of using your tools and the interview process to interviewers. Create time for 1-1 support where it is needed.

Running interviews

When running online interviews for the first time it is worth joining as back-up technical support, and also to handle the downloading of the recording and its transcription. With a longer-term project this could be delegated to confident volunteers.

Transcribing and publishing

Upload your interviews to a transcription service such as You will need to check for spelling mistakes before publication. To create more engaging content, use a tool such as Audiogram to overlay your transcription text and audio on a still or moving image.


5. Key learnings

Clear and transparent communication is key when recruiting volunteers. Create an information sheet which is clear on expectations, timelines and next steps.

Involve your participants from conception, give yourself as much time as possible to reach out to interested participants and have a good understanding of the structure as far in advance as possible.


6. Outcomes and outputs

The finished interviews and transcriptions are now live on the LGBT website (, and there are plans to  make more visually compelling versions of the interviews to increase engagement.


7. Useful links


More help here

Digitally Democratising Archives: Case Study 6

LGBT Foundation LTD: ‘LGBT+ Oral Histories Digital Archive’ — this project created a digital, accessible archive of LGBT+ oral histories focused on community empowerment and queer activism in Greater Manchester and beyond.

Young woman with red hair holding green headphones

Transcribing audio and video archive material

Barnsley Archives hold records relating to all aspects of life in the Borough of Barnsley and its collections include newspapers, books, sound and film. This project sought to engage and upskill remote digital volunteers to help Barnsley Archives and Local Studies interpret, digitally transcribe and publicly share recently acquired sound and film collections.

Wooden boxes with photos and pictures

How to increase the opportunities for our visitors to engage more deeply with our online archive

Digitising your archive can enable more people to engage with your content and heritage organisation. In this resource, Sarah Saunders looks at the ways digital archives and collections can be organised so that visitors can engage more deeply with them online. She explores the importance of keeping the user front and centre to ensure that your online archive reflects the engagement you want for your users.


Browse related resources by smart tags:

Archive Digital archive Digital Heritage Oral histories
Published: 2023

Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence

Please attribute as: "Creating a digital community oral history archive (2024) by supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0


More help here

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