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Date: 4 October 2000
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The lives and work of the people who were involved in the UK’s North Sea oil and gas industry will be
documented  in the world’s biggest ever oral history project devoted to the industry.  The project, a unique partnership between the British Library and The University of Aberdeen, is launched today by Aberdeen’s Lord Provost, Margaret Smith in Aberdeen, the city at the heart of the North Sea oil industry.

The launch function will take place today, Thursday 5 October, from 12:30 to 2:00 pm at the Aberdeen Town House.  Dr Rob Perks of the British Library, Hugo Manson of the University of Aberdeen, and two
people participating in the interviews, Mr Keith Johnson, a former diver and subsea specialist and Mr Edwin Reid, a former banker, will be available for interview during the event.

Over the duration of the project, hundreds of interviews will be conducted, each one several hours long. The resulting sound archive: Lives in the Oil Industry will contain the personal experiences and memories of people from all sectors of the industry – from roustabouts to senior management.

An international oral history expert, Hugo Manson, has been recruited to manage the project.  Manson, from New Zealand and descended from Shetlanders, is based at the University of Aberdeen as a Research Fellow, while the interviews are conducted.

 “This project is going to provide future researchers with a rich store of information about the most significant industry of the modern era,” said Hugo Manson. “This will be the living history of the oil and gas industry in the words of the people whose own efforts and ideas, disasters and successes made it happen.”            MORE/
The focus of the interviews will be both on the working careers of those who have made the industry what it is today and on their family backgrounds, education and other interests.  Also recorded will be individuals whose lives have been affected and altered by the arrival of the industry in their towns and villages and by the changes to their economies, populations and daily routines.

Dr Rob Perks of the British Library said:  “As well as looking for people as well known as Red Adair, we are casting our net as wide as possible to document the full scope of the people who have contributed so much to the industry.  Most pressing is to interview those pioneers who led the way in the very early days of oil exploration.  Many of them are now getting older and we want to record their oral testimonies before it’s too late”.

When completed and documented, the tapes will be archived in the British Library’s National Sound Archive at the Library’s new home at St Pancras in London.  The archive will form part of the National Life Story Collection.  A complete set of the archive will also be kept in the Special Libraries and Archives of the University of Aberdeen.

A number of publications, including a book using material from the project, are also planned.


Further information:

University Press Office on telephone +44 (0)1224-273778 or email