As Graham Smith wrote last week, we have been devising ways to continue contributing to oral history theory and practise during the Covid-19 lockdown period. One long-term aim that we’ve been able to realise is a new oral history podcast. In this Lug post, Andy Clark talks about the process behind making the podcast and what listeners can expect to hear over the coming weeks and months.
The importance of the voice in oral history has been theorised and conceptualised since the method of collecting oral narratives for historical investigation began. However, it remains the case that the vast majority of oral histories collected are consumed through translation to the written document. Dissertations, theses, articles and books remain the dominant sources to access oral history driven research.
Since the Newcastle Oral History Unit and Collective was established, we have aimed to utilise the recordings that we collect in creative ways to emphasise the orality of our practise. However, given our desire to continuously develop new projects and collect more interviews, the process of beginning a podcast has taken longer than originally anticipated. With many of our projects paused due to Covid-19 to protect the health and safety of ourselves and our interviewees, this has been the ideal time to assess the materials that we have and look to disseminate them in new and creative ways. The result of this is the Newcastle Oral History Unit Podcast.
The Podcast will feature project-specific episodes as well as conversations with leading oral historians who have visited us over the last few years. Whenever we’ve had a scholar visit to lead seminars or deliver lectures, we have invited them to participate in roundtable conversations about their work and to discuss changes in oral history theory and practise. We hope that these recordings will contribute to the growing interest in oral histories of oral history.
The first two episodes are reflective of both these approaches. Episode 1 focuses on a project that I led on the Sigmund Pumps Wartime Apprenticeship Scheme, when I interviewed five former engineering apprentices in their mid-90s about their memories of learning their trade. In the episode, I discuss some of my research and bring in the narratives collected through the interviews. This type of episode will allow us to continue to disseminate our own research and contribute to the multiple fields of history we engage with.
Episode 2 will be broadcast next Tuesday and features a roundtable interview with Professor Paula Hamilton. Paula is an internationally recognised oral historian and public historian. She has written extensively on memory and public history and in recent years increasingly about the role of the senses in oral history. Paula delivered our 2019 public lecture and, as one of our external advisors, chaired our annual meeting. She continues to be a key critical friend of the Unit.
Episodes will hopefully be broadcast weekly, on Tuesdays where possible, and we really hope that you find them a good way to continue to engage with oral history research during the current crisis. We’ll also look at the possibility of continuing to interview oral historians about their experiences and practises remotely during the lockdown period.
If you have any suggestions for possible episodes, feedback on the podcast, or know of scholars that we should be speaking with for future episodes, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope you enjoy listening to the podcast!