x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

History you can hear

A new aural history projects uses modern technology to keep the past alive.

For so much of human existence, the manners, mores, folklore, stories and history of communities has been captured in oral and aural tradition, through storytelling and music. Before the arrival of audio and video recording, it was often possible to document such folk art only in writing.

In the UAE, decades of rapid change have meant that much of the local tradition of communities - stories, myths, family history and more - is in danger of being lost. But now UAE University has found a solution: e-books, combining text and multimedia, now permit electronic capture and full archiving of the country's intangible heritage.

Now students of this and future generations - and not only in the UAE - will be able to access such data easily. And perhaps the course charted by this project will influence and inspire other countries to preserve their own unwritten heritage.

When future generations wonder about the stories their ancestors told around a watering hole near Liwa, or gazing at the sea from Ras Al Khaimah, they will be able to hear the voices of their forefathers recounting those bits of history. The past will no longer remain a vanished mystery, but a living, breathing present.