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Life stories

Life stories are autobiographies written by ordinary people and gathered in for the purposes of research. A total of around 4,600 such autobiographical narratives are stored in the Norwegian Folklore Archives.

In total these personal recollections constitute a history of Norway written by the populace itself, and they serve as a rich source of Norwegian society and daily life from the end of the nineteenth century up till the present.

The material is used by researchers and students to illuminate and discuss an array of topics. 

Personal recollections from the late nineteenth century until today

The life stories in the Norwegian Folklore Archives have been written by Norwegians from all walks of life. Childhood memories feature heavily in many of the narratives, something that was also encouraged by the list of suggested topics in the accompanying brochures (as seen in the brochures (PDF) with suggested topics from 1964 and 1981). The first collection, in 1964, was presented as a national competition, and the life stories were therefore known as "minneoppgaver" (lit. “recollection assignments”). The aim was to activate the elderly and create a new type of source material for cross-disciplinary research.

The Norwegian Folklore Archives contains such life stories from the three nationwide collections carried out in 1964, 1981, and 1996. Invitations were sent out to everyone born before 1900, 1914, and 1930, respectively, to write down their life story.

The result is overwhelming: all in all about 4,600 such autobiographical narratives – totalling around 160,000 manuscript pages – are stored in the Norwegian Folklore Archives. This material is available to interested parties upon visiting the NFS. Life stories from seven of Norway’s nineteen counties, collected during the first two drives, are also digitally available (only in Norwegian)

A fourth national collection was carried out 2014, where people born before 1950 were encouraged to submit their life stories.

About the digitalized life stories

The digitalized collection of life stories contains replies from the minneoppgave collections carried out in 1964 and 1981. From among the vast trove of material, seven counties (Oslo, Østfold, Buskerud, Aust-Agder, Rogaland, Nordland, and Troms) were chosen to have their replies digitalized.

The digital texts have been set up as an independent source material suitable for scholars. The digitalization was therefore done in accordance with the philological principles for scholarly editions, and accuracy of transcription was heavily emphasized.

Pagination, language variant, and spelling follow the original text, and solecisms, misspellings, and obsolete spellings remain untouched in the transcription.

The life stories in the archives contain much information of a personal nature. It has been necessary to maintain the anonymity both of the writers and of their social environments. All personal names have therefore been redacted in the digitalized versions.

Certain of the life stories have been completely or partially withdrawn from public access for the sake of privacy, and have been omitted from the digitalized material.

Recommended literature

  • Aukrust, Knut 1999: "Livsløp og livsverden" i Aukrust, Knut og Anne Eriksen: Kunnskap om kultur. Folkloristiske dialoger, (Oslo: Novus) s 87-108.
  • Eriksen, Anne 1999: "Selvbiografier mellom minne og historie" i Aukrust, Knut og Anne Eriksen: Kunnskap om kultur. Folkloristiske dialoger, (Oslo: Novus). s. 70-86.
  • Hodne, Ørnulf 1987. Registrering av minneoppgavene for eldre. Norveg 30(1987) s 149-172


Published Jan. 30, 2015 12:38 PM - Last modified Jan. 3, 2022 1:50 PM