The Oral and Pictorial Records Programme, or OPReP as it is popularly known, was established at the St Augustine Campus of The Main Library, The University of the West Indies (hereafter U.W.I.) in April 1981. Although the creation of oral history archives is not essentially a library function, many oral history projects do emanate from libraries. Willa Baum, writing about the librarian’s role in oral history, sees the major steps as “creating”, “curating”, “consuming” and “counselling” (the four C’s). It does seem, however, that Baums’s definition of “counselling” points to a practical role which the historian can play in the collecting of oral history – the provision of “the advice, the readings and background material, and on-going supervision that will aid the creators of oral history” in producing interviews which will elicit the most useful data from their informants. These “four C’s” broadly define the activities which engage the Co-ordinator of OPReP.
The perception of the role of the librarian in the collection of oral history seemingly prompted the establishment of the oral history project at U.W.I. in April 1981. According to the then Campus Librarian, the project “grew out of the perceived need to enhance historical research for the study of Trinidad and Tobago by drawing mainly on available human resources in the society which were then largely untapped.” A group on interested persons’ mainly academics, responded to an invitation by the Campus Librarian to an informal meeting to discuss the possible pursuit of a project to collect oral and pictorial records. From these tentative beginnings as a “project” in 1981, it was renamed a continuing programme in 1983 and is one of the on-going activates of the West Indiana and Special Collections Division of the Main Library.
(Site logo and introduction taken from "Spoken History" by Margaret Rouse-Jones and Kathleen Helenese-Paul.)