Oral History Society Regional Networkers discuss 40 years of oral history

Posted on 23/11/2012 by


Earlier this month, thirty Oral History Society regional networkers attended their annual meeting at the University of Leicester.

The theme of the event, hosted by Colin Hyde and Cynthia Brown, was Celebrating anniversaries using oral history: creative ideas & outputs.

Colin talked about the  East Midlands Oral History Archive project Migration Stories, which focuses on the 40th anniversary of the arrival in Leicester of around 6000 Asians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972.

The anniversary was marked by an exhibition, From Kampala to Leicester, at the city’s New Walk Museum, which incorporated archival oral histories along with new interviews. Colin reflected on how the exhibition and related events portrayed the effect of the Ugandan exodus on both the people involved and Leicester itself.

Margaret Tohill, archivist at Worcestershire Archives and Archaeology Service with responsibility for the oral history collections at the new Hive centre, talked about how her personal and family experience of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1995 led her to initiate an oral history project at the archives. This project led to oral history becoming an inherent part of the archives’ work.

The Royal Connections exhibition at Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham was the subject of a presentation by project co-ordinator Sian Hunter-Dodsworth and Andrew Lockhart, who conducted oral history interviews. The community-curated exhibition, held to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, explored the local area’s royal connections and its perceptions of royalty, and raised some interesting questions about the place of ‘dissenting’ voices among those who were interviewed.

Cynthia Brown of the OHS then led a discussion on the ‘problems’ of oral history, 40 years after a conference of the same title. The 1972 conference was held at the University of Leicester and attended by academics from a wide range of disciplines, including social and economic history, political science, social anthropology, folklore studies and child psychology.

This led in turn to the formation of the society, which celebrates its own 40th anniversary in 2013. Cynthia presented a summary of  its conclusions as a basis for a discussion of how the ‘problems’ of oral history may have changed over 40 years.

The 2013 annual meeting will be held in Manchester.

Our regional networkers, who offer their expertise voluntarily, come from a wide range of backgrounds and experience with oral history – community projects, libraries, museums, archives and academic institutions.  They are willing to assist anyone new to oral history or wanting to discuss their work with someone who is sympathetic and knowledgeable. They act as a first point of contact for enquiries, give advice and refer to other contacts or sources of guidance.

Networkers actively encourage and support the development and use of oral history in their own area.  If you would like to enquire about becoming a networker please contact Juliana Vandegrift: juliana.vandegrift@btinternet.com

Posted in: Project News