Job Opportunity: Freelance Oral Historian, Devon

Posted on 28/01/2018 by


Oral Historian
Hidden Histories of rural north Devon: Opening up the Beaford Archive
Freelance contract over 14 months

The project:
The Beaford Archive is a photographic record of people and community in rural north Devon containing more than 80,000 images covering the 120-year period 1870 to 1990.  According to the Royal Photographic Society, it is “…a unique body of work, unparalleled, at least in this country, for its scale and quality”.  However, few of these images are currently accessible to the public.
Beaford Arts has secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out a major conservation and digitisation exercise that will curate and publish online around 10,000 unseen images that together illustrate the late 20th Century social history of rural north Devon.

Hidden Histories is a three-year project and will include:
•       Digitising, cataloguing, archiving and publishing to the web approximately 10,000 existing 35mm black and white negatives from the James Ravilious and Roger Deakins Beaford Archives
•       Production of a new fully searchable website to provide a showcase for existing digitised work, newly digitised images and audio, and new work as it is produced
•       A programme of oral history, learning and community activity which will create new work and engage people in learning and education

The Oral History programme is at an exciting point: over the course of 10 months we have trained a team of 24 volunteers, all now skilled and experienced in conducting interviews. We have a long list of 100 local people who are potential interview subjects, with around half of these already organized and prioritized in line with agreed selection criteria. We have completed 25 interviews so far as part of Phase One and carried out a detailed analysis of these. We have established a smooth running workflow incorporating archive research and interview agenda writing, through to the creation and use of high quality Oral History packs to ensure everyone supporting the collection of recordings has access to the equipment and resources they need. We have just commenced transcriptions and are working towards the editing of illuminating and accessible ‘digital stories’ with what we have recorded so far. We have learnt an incredible amount and are forming a new team structure to further explore how we can enrich the Beaford Archive through Oral History.

Main duties and responsibilities
The Oral Historian will take overall responsibility for the successful continuation of the Oral History strand to the standards and targets agreed for the project.  They will oversee the research, image selection, and interview agenda writing parts of the Interview Prep stage. It is essential that an experienced interviewer and researcher takes on this role to ensure the interviews are framed and structured correctly, and that the necessary research into the Archive and interview subject is in depth and nuanced. The role provides an opportunity to work on a unique heritage project for north Devon while developing an internationally significant record of rural life.

They will also be responsible for quality control of the interviews recorded – reviewing each interview to ensure we are achieving the coverage of topic, theme, location, and historical detail desired and making adjustments to our process and/or list of interview subjects accordingly.

A collaborative approach is very important – the Oral Historian will work closely with an Oral History Administrator, Project Support Officer, and team of volunteers to ensure the programme is achieved to a high standard.

Oral History collection
•       Research – coordinating the setting up of interviews and leading on all research to ensure that all interviews are conducted with confidence in the subject’s ability to speak to our key themes in detail and are linked strongly to the archive photographs
•       Image selection – working closely with other members of the HH team to ensure all interviews are structured around carefully curated photographs
•       Interview agenda  writing – working closely with the volunteer interviewers to ensure all interviews fully reflect the research carried out, explore the key project themes, and provide opportunity to explore the photographs in particular
•       Conducting interviews with key interview subjects
•       Quality assurance – listening to each recording, ensuring all interviews are to a high standard, tracking thematic and geographical coverage, routinely sharing findings and recommendations with the rest of team.
•       Overseeing the transcribing of interviews – working with the Cataloguer to ensure all valuable metadata is recorded, that all summaries are to a high standard, and that the ‘house style’ is consistently followed across all transcriptions
•       Overall responsibility for ensuring that relevant ethical standards are adhered to during data collection, cataloguing and archiving
•       Managing any training needs of volunteers, devising and delivering any training sessions and providing support as required.
•       Providing specialist training for other team members where required
Contributing to Hidden Histories team
•       Contributing to Celebrating Your Heritage Exhibitions and a Major Exhibition with the presentation of oral history materials (Spring 2019)
•       Provision of interview extracts and context for web and social media use: specifically overseeing the creation of ‘digital stories’ in collaboration with the Marketing Specialist
•       Contributing to evaluation and other core team work as needed – the Beaford Arts / Hidden Histories team work collaboratively and findings or opportunities from different areas of work are shared routinely

The post-holder will report to the Hidden Histories Project Coordinator and will be expected to liaise closely with the Oral History Administrator, Project Support Officer, Project Board, Marketing Specialist and the Cataloguer. With support from the Communities Manager and Project Coordinator, the Oral Historian will be responsible for the ongoing management and training of a team of at least 24 volunteers.

Person specification
•         Educated to degree level or equivalent in a relevant subject
•         Proven experience of carrying out high quality oral history collection in accordance with agreed standards and to set deadlines
•         Proven experience of carrying out in depth research and applying this to practical projects
•         Knowledge of professional methods, ethics and best practice in conducting interviews, transcribing, summarizing, and creating accessible collections
•       Demonstrable experience of managing and training volunteers
•       Experience of managing ethically sensitive material to appropriate standards
•       Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
•       Excellent IT skills including database management
•       Excellent team-working skills

•       Experience of editing audio files for public engagement
•       Experience of working with photographic archives
•       Knowledge of the history and/or geography of Devon

Timescale and fees

This is a freelance role involving working remotely from the Beaford Arts and Hidden Histories team but the successful candidate will be required to work at least one day per week from the Beaford Arts office in South Molton to ensure there is a suitable level of collaboration between the different members of the team.

A fee of £15,000 is available for this role across 14 months. Ideally, the successful candidate will be in a position to commence their contract by 1st March 2018.

Please note that any additional expenses such as travel are included in the above fee.

Freelance appointees are responsible for their own tax and NI contributions.

Please see here – – for the accompanying ‘Aims and Objectives’ document for further information about the programme of work the successful candidate will undertake, as well as other job opportunities on the project.

To apply, please submit a letter of application setting out why you are interested in the role and evidencing your suitability according to the Person Specification. Please also attach your current CV, including details of two referees who we may contact if we invite you to interview.  For informal enquiries, please email

The closing date for completed applications is Midday Monday 12 February 2018. 
It is anticipated that the interviews will take place on Thursday 15 February 2018, with second interviews on Monday 19 February 2018.
Hidden Histories of rural north Devon: Opening up the Beaford Archive has been further supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Elmgrant Trust, Fullabrook CIC, Leader 5 Torridge and North Devon, and the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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