Oral History in the Classroom

More than 50 years after the physique era was in full bloom, model oral histories are assuming increasingly central roles in our education and teachings. The BMF Collection holds video-recorded testimonies from former models and photographers. The testimonies date back to the late 1990s and continue today. They are recommended for secondary high school students and higher ages. Synopses of most testimonies are included as part of the testimony's catalogue record and in many cases time-coded summaries in a searchable PDF format are also available. 

To find out more about the history of the BMF Oral History Collection please visit: History of the Oral History Collection


The term oral history is often used to describe the personal account of a model. Testimony is given as an act of witness and a form of evidence. The BMF recommends not using the term "story" because it implies a fictionalized or constructed account. 

These accounts are part of their larger oral history, including life before and after they worked as a model. These oral histories attest to a destroyed way of life and a loss of communities and cultures. In recounting their experiences, models remember their past, their community, and their identity. Through the recounting of their experiences, models frame and make sense of an experience that is hard, even for them, to grasp or remember. These persons write and record their experiences to preserve them and gather them into a form that confers meaning. The key here is the word experience, which belongs to the consciousness of a person; it arises in the encounter between the world of experience and one's thoughts and sense of self. It is this person's experience that that is a privilege to hear.