Nolan Reilly is the Director Emeritus of the Oral History Centre and a Senior Scholar at the University of Winnipeg. He is the co-founder with Alexander Freund of the OHC and, until his retirement, was its co-director. Nolan did his first oral history interviews in 1974 in Amherst, Nova Scotia. This research was an integral part of his community study of Amherst that he undertook for his doctoral degree at Dalhousie University. These first interviews provided much fodder for his students over the years when identifying practices that are best to be avoided in interviewing. However, the interviews did demonstrate to Nolan the value of oral history and meshed well with his commitment to popular history or what is today called democratizing history.
Nolan joined the University of Winnipeg’s History Department in 1978 and over his long tenure here directed numerous oral and community history projects. Much of his energy was devoted to collaboration with university and secondary school instructors and community activists to develop pedagogies to engage students and members of the community in the discovery of their past. Oral history was a foundational methodology in this research. Ironically though, given his later involvement in the creation of the OHC, he defined himself in these years as a historian of work class history and community studies. However, all was revealed to him in 2004 when oral historian Alexander Freund joined the History Department. Alexander’s intense interest in and knowledge of the field of oral history drew Nolan into a more concentrated and focussed approach to the subject. Alexander and Nolan soon recognized the importance of creating an oral history centre to initiate research and to support others pursuing the democratising of history through the practice of oral history.
In his retirement, Nolan is continuing his involvement in the OHC and to offer encouragement and support to his friends and colleagues in the community and university.