This project is an example of so-called process-generated oral history: an archival effort to document a phenomenon in a balanced way by interviewing a considerable number of people about their personal past on the basis of the same range of questions. This means that there is no specific research question that has to be answered, that the interviews are semi-structured and that they offer suitable material for comparative research. Moreover, much care is taken to recruit narrators from different social layers and regions. In the Bosnian context this meant that a mobile crew had to travel to various areas, with Serbian and Muslim population, in order to generate awareness for the initiative and to recruit narrators.
In principle the topic list followed a biographical chronological order. However, the high percentage of traumatized interviewees was a challenge for the small interview team. The interviewer and cameraman often had to adapt their approach to suit the needs of the narrators. In order to create a flow of speech, sometimes the traumatizing event sometimes had to be narrated first, before the interviewee could provide the necessary context on his or her biographical background that is needed for a future viewer to understand the logic of the story.
A similar issue was whether to intervene and stop the camera when interviewees preferred to move around or spoke incoherently or in language or dialect that is difficult to understand. In the latter cases there was also a challenge for the translation into English. In some cases annotations have been added to the translation to explain the choices that have been made. This type of metadata is available for research purposes.
The narrators were presented with various options for informed consent and could choose between granting full online access to their stories or limited access (for researchers only, under specific restrictions), or to classify their interview for a particular period of time. The urge to share is illustrated by the striking fact that all interviewees chose the full access option. Nevertheless, the team carefully scrutinized the content of the interviews to check whether information is conveyed that may put the narrators or third persons at risk. This is a specific requirement of oral history that deals with a recent violent past.
The project has anticipated the prerequisites for scholarly use of the data by providing extensive metadata on the level of the interviewee, the interview and the collection. In-depth analysis of the narratives at interview level and at collection level is possible in both the local language and in English, as all interviews have been fully transcribed and translated. Out of safety reasons one condition for reuse of data has not been met: even for researchers there is no background information available about the interviewers.
In this context it is relevant to point to the division of labor between the two Bosnian partners: The Centre for Investigative Journalism has conducted the interviews, collected the data and transcribed and translated the interviews. The curation of the metadata and elaboration of the database was handled by the Human Rights Centre of the University of Sarajevo.
With regard to aftercare of the narrators: the interviewees have all been sent a letter of thanks with a copy of their interview. In some cases the Centre for Investigative Journalism has contacted the narrators personally after the interview to check the impact of the intervention on the mental state of the interviewee.