FSD Bulletin

Issue 33 (2/2011)

ISSN 1795-5262

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FSD Bulletin is the electronic newsletter of the Finnish Social Science Data Archive. The Bulletin provides information and news related to the data archive and social science research.


Finnish Social Science Data Archive
E-mail: fsd@tuni.fi

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Oral History of Veteran MPs

Joni Krekola

The Library of Parliament in Helsinki, Finland, houses a unique collection of veteran MP interviews. The in-depth interviews cover the political career and life history of former Members of Parliament, focusing particularly on their activities as MPs. Data collection has been systematic and interviews have been conducted ever since 1988. At present, the Veteran Members of Parliament Oral History Archive holds 341 interviews, with the average length of an interview being about six hours. About ten new interviews are conducted annually. Researcher Joni Krekola coordinates the data collection and provides information service on the data.

On-going data collection

All former Members of Parliament are considered to be veteran MPs, regardless of how long they held their seats. In practice, the persons selected to be interviewed had been in Parliament for a long time or had otherwise distinguished themselves. Selection criteria include good coverage across regions and political parties. A lot of work lies ahead, since at present there are over 350 former MPs who should be interviewed.

Life histories of the ex-MPs are charted beginning from their childhood and reaching up to the interview moment. Interviews focus particularly on their political career and years as MPs. Interview themes cover elections, election campaigns, work in committees and the parliamentary group, possible experiences as a Minister in the cabinet or as a MEP in the European Parliament, decision-making and relationships with the media. The interviewees' personal views, interpretations and experiences are thus recorded for posterity.

Recording tacit knowledge

Veteran interviews allow recording what happens behind the scenes in Parliament, difficult to capture otherwise. Parliamentary decision-making involves unofficial discussions and dealings, personal chemistry (or lack of it) between individuals, cliques and competition. Only MPs themselves can tell the tale, if they want to. Each individual has his/her own truth but systematically collected interview data and the extent of data collection allow comparative research.

Access to the Veteran MP Oral History Archive is restricted. Access is allowed only for research purposes, and a special permission must be applied for. Interviewees have the right to set personal restrictions on the use of their interview but less than 10% have done so. Interview material is delivered to researchers as text files on CD or as audio recordings.

The Oral History Archive is a treasure trove for political science and political history, as well as for etnology, cultural studies or gender research. Researchers using the data have mainly had only one complaint: they had found the life histories so fascinating that it had been hard to stop reading or listening to them.

More information:
» Veteran Members of Parliament Oral History Archive
» Joni Krekola (name.surname at parliament.fi)