The Oral History project of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library was conceived as part of its research activities. The first steps for organizing it were taken in the summer of 1966. As on date the NMML has recorded the reminiscences of 1351 personalities and out of them 882 transcripts of interviews have been finalized and made available for consultation for scholars in the Reading Room of the NMML Archives.
In the Oral History project of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library the emphasis in the beginning was on the recollections of men and women who came into contact with India’s great leaders or were connected with important political events or movements either as participants or as witnesses. Gradually the Oral History canvas expanded to include subjects concerning the overall national development including economy, foreign policy, art and culture, sports, institution building, etc.
The list of persons to be interviewed is being revised continually.
Among those who have recorded their recollections are Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Acharya J.B. Kripalani, Smt. Renuka Ray, Smt. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Dr. Sushila Nayar, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, H.V. Kamath, A.P. Jain, Nawab of Chhatari, Dr. Jivraj Mehta, R.K. Nehru, H.M. Patel, JyotiBasu, I.K. Gujaral and V.P. Singh. Among the scientists interviewed are S. Chandrasekhar, the eminent astrophysicist and Professor Satyen Bose. The foreigners who have been interviewed on Jawaharlal Nehru or on their association with the Indian national movement include Louis Mountbatten, Fenner Brockway, Horace Alexander, James Cameron, Yehudi Menuhin, Mrs. Martin Luther King, Willy Brandt, Chancellor Kreisky of Austria, Pierre Mendes – France, Chester Bowles, Tibor Mende, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and many others.
A wide variety of subjects have already been covered by our oral history interviews such as recollections of important leaders, the Indian politics going back to the partition of Bengal, and the First World War; Satyagraha campaigns, the social reform movements, growth of trade unions and labour relations, activities of revolutionary and terrorist groups, Hindu-Muslim relations, growth of the socialist movement, Indo-British relations in the context of Indian and British politics, and the events leading to the partition of India.
The programme for oral history interviews is a continuous process. However, a body of valuable source material has already been accumulated to assist the historians of the period, who wish to write about the great personalities or movements of recent Indian history. This material, along with the vast and varied printed and manuscript materials collected by the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, constitutes a significant contribution to the study of the history of modern India, and especially of Indian nationalism.