In-person interviewing in the era of Covid-19

With Government guidelines changing, indoor gatherings and meetings are now possible, meaning that oral historians are once again able to conduct face-to-face interviews. However, the interview situation in August 2020 is vastly different from any time before. What impact does this have on the interview as an event, and what steps should oral historians take to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone invovled? In this Lug post, Andy Clark discusses his approach and experience to conducting in-person interviewing in the ‘Covid-19 era’.

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Funded PhD opportunity: Oral History’s Design: A creative collaboration.

Sustaining visitor (re)use of oral histories on heritage sites: The National Trust’s Seaton Delaval Hall AS A case study.

Oral history’s popularity as an active collecting method and archiving tool have outstripped the level of reuse of oral histories in historical interpretation. And while oral history’s limited reuse of archived oral histories has attracted some interest, this is based mainly on proposed digital technical fixes. Significantly, there is relatively less research on the dissemination of oral histories and their reception by audiences. Oral history as an emerging discipline has yet to adequately integrate users and audiences into the processes of analysis and reuse.

The PhD project draws on oral history reuse theory and practice in combination with design science to explore ways of addressing reusability. We are particularly keen to explore how heritage site visitors might become active curators and historians in reusing oral histories from an existing on-site archive and how in turn new data could be generated to shape future collecting. The PhD will generate, in partnership, new knowledge to understand and address visitors’ active engagement in interpreting the past through a case study utilising the National Trust’s oral history archive at Seaton Delaval Hall.

Terry Whalebone, 2006, CC BY 2.0 (no changes)

With the support of the local community, Seaton Delaval Hall was acquired by the National Trust ten years ago. Although a recent acquisition in Trust terms, the Hall shares with its locality a rich and significant history, including being the site of a Second World War POW camp. Much of The Hall is currently undergoing major repair and conservation, including a large engagement programme, embedding collaborative practice across the site and encouraging relevance and legacy for the Hall within the local community. Over the next few years, the site will offer opportunities to rethink and experiment with programming and interpretation. The Hall currently primarily focuses on one aspect of history, the Delaval Family, but there is an acute awareness that this is an incomplete picture. Staff and volunteers at the Hall are also interested in exploring a 360-degree interpretation of history. This is, therefore, a timely opportunity to approach this collection, archiving and engagement holistically from the outset. Above all else, the Trust staff want to ensure that Seaton Delaval Hall’s oral histories are not only collected and archived but that they are sustainable.

Design science in this project offers the possibility for a change in how oral history archives are created, curated, accessed, and most significantly in their use and reuse. This will be achieved by the student establishing a network of people from different, relevant, subject-areas and engaging them in a design-facilitated creative discourse around the specific issues identified above. By ensuring that archive creators, staff and volunteers, local community members, and visitors are involved in this network, needs and opportunities will be identified, and insights and ideas harvested and developed in design.

By researching and immersing themselves in the culture of oral history as a set of practices and theories from collection to reuse, the student will be able to create a deeper understanding of barriers and opportunities. Working together with oral historians at Newcastle, design thinkers at Northumbria and staff and volunteers at the Hall they will aim to create a new active archiving and curation system. This system will also aim to support accessibility for all and open to wider interpretations. Following the development of the system, prototyping and testing will be conducted at Hall with visitors with the findings disseminated through the Trust and beyond. The Hall, as a site for experimentation, has been identified to undertake development and shares learning at a regional and national level within the Trust. This PhD research would, therefore, include sharing lessons to regional and national colleagues across the Trust and within the wider heritage sector.

This Northern Bridge Collaborative Doctoral Award is offered through a three-way collaboration involving colleagues from the National Trust, Northumbria School of Design and History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle. The supervisory team will be led by Graham Smith, Oral History Unit and Collective (OHUC), with Mark Bailey, Northumbria, and Jo Moody and Emma Thomas, National Trust.

The successful applicant will be located in the Oral History Unit and Collective (OHUC) at Newcastle, and will also have a place within Northumbria’s Design-led Responsible Innovation Practice Research group. This will provide the student with access to CoCreate and the wider Northumbria PGR community which has an established programme of doctoral support promoting interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration. Research in the School of Design has developed to embrace both practice-based, action research and fundamental theoretical studies. Especially relevant to this study, the school has particular expertise in externally engaged, applied participatory research supported by dedicated research studios within CoCreate, a research group which explores societal challenges and cultural experiences through participatory and design-led research, with an emphasis on interaction and social design and creative practice.

OHUC at Newcastle has a core team of four PDRAs and four Associate Researchers. OHUC was launched in January 2018 and operates within Newcastle University’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology. Working across diverse academic disciplines, from creative arts to medicine, and in partnership with local history groups and community historians, the Unit’s work explores the role of oral history in communicating the past in the present with particular reference to historical justice. OHUC produces globally significant research while attending to regional and civic responsibilities. Using oral history as both a method and a source in public history settings, OHUC shares the common agenda of co-researching memory and historical narratives through reflective practices and theories, with the Collective providing a forum for knowledge exchange that explores the dynamics of individual and social memories and historical narratives. The Unit is therefore ideally suited as a research environment for this PhD, providing opportunities for engagement with knowledge-exchange activities and interdisciplinary explorations within the university and with community oral historians in the region.

The student will also have access to an extensive range of National Trust training including working with volunteers, managing change, communication, and leadership and will be allocated working space at Seaton Delaval in addition to a place in the Oral History Unit’s team.

Applicants should have experience of oral history and design. Excellent first and second degrees. Enquiries should be made to  graham.smith@newcastle.ac.uk For further details of how to apply for this Northern Bridge Collaborative Doctoral Award

News: New media brings Booker interviews out from the archive

A new film from the British Library features clips from an oral history interview by the Oral History Unit’s Sue Bradley. ‘Behind the Scenes: The Man Booker Prize — Stories from the British Library’s archive‘ is an audio-visual montage created by British Library interviewer Sarah O’Reilly, with voices from in-depth interviews recorded for National Life Stories.

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Introducing Sue Bradley, our third Research Associate

Sue Bradley joined Oral History @ Newcastle as our third Research Associate in February this year. Sue is an experienced oral historian and was instrumental in developing a network of like-minded researchers at the university before the Oral History Unit came along. Her first project has been to work with Special Collections at the Philip Robinson Library to develop shared processes for the collection and archiving of oral histories. Having worked in the Centre for Rural Economy for the past ten years, Sue brings a non-urban focus to the unit’s work.

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In His Own Voice: Dr Julian Tudor Hart (b. 9 March 1927, d. 1 July 2018)

In this blog post Graham Smith remembers the pioneering general practitioner Dr Julian Tudor Hart who died on the 1st of July. Graham interviewed him in June 1999.

Click HERE for a .mp3 audio extract from the interview and for a .pdf transcript of that extract: Tudor Hart in His Own Voice pt 1 extract 1

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Introducing our second Research Associate, Alison Atkinson-Phillips

Photo of Alison Atkinson-PhillipsAlison Atkinson-Phillips has joined Oral History @ Newcastle as our second Research Associate. Alison has come to oral history via public history, cultural studies, community development and a non-academic career in communications. Alison’s Twitter profile (@dralia_p) describes her as a ‘writer, researcher, renovator and procrastinator’. But with the renovations left behind in Bassendean (Western Australia) she is hoping she will have time for her other three favourite things.*

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Being Human – Paths Across Waters: lost stories of Tyneside and the Caribbean’ Exhibition

When Dr Emma Coffield (Arts & Culture) and Vanessa Mongey (History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle UNiversity) heard about this year’s theme for the Being Human Festival  ‘Lost and Found,’ they knew that it was the perfect opportunity for working together. They set up an interactive exhibition ‘Paths Across Waters: lost stories of Tyneside and the Caribbean’ that charts the connections between the two regions at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre, Fish Quay, North Shields The exhibit aims to raise awareness of Tyneside’s international heritage and ask questions about the memories, objects and understanding of this history in the North East. Included in the exhibition is a storytelling booth designed by John Bowers, creating a live soundscape called Passages that explores people’s responses to the sea and to the paths of migration which connect the North East of England with the rest of the world.
The exhibition runs 9 – 26 November, 10am-5pm. Free entry and event series 17-25 November as part of the Being Human festival. A £2 entry fee will be in operation at other times.

Our second researcher post – now advertised

Here below is the formal advert. But please go the University jobs website and search: work and After.

B89202R – Research Associate (Work and After)

School of History, Classics & Archaeology
Research Associate
Grade: F27 Vacancy Ref: B89202R

CLOSING DATE 23 October 2017

The University continues to build on in its commitment to oral history and has recently appointed a new Professor of Oral History. We are seeking applications for a post created to support the new Professor and to contribute to a growing programme of research relating to oral history. The post will include recording life history interviews that will provide new contexts to our understanding of memories of work, with specific attention to engineering in the first instance, as well as generating oral history data about the history employment, deindustrialisation and attempted regeneration in the North East of England since the Second World War. In addition, the project will investigate the relationship between visual representations of the past and memory. The successful applicant would also participate in the oral history unit’s other initiatives, including digital technologies and linking to oral historians beyond the university. The post is suitable to applicants skilled in oral history.

Main Duties and Responsibilities
1. To undertake literature reviews
2. To collect and analyse oral histories
3. To prepare oral history materials for archiving
4. To contribute to writing for publications
5. To contribute to preparation of funding applications
6. To contribute to the project’s public engagement agenda
7. To present results as required at local, national or international conferences
8. To engage with relevant stakeholders, including working with at least one community group in the region
9. To attend meetings and other events as appropriate
10. To identify, in collaboration with senior staff, and undertake a programme of professional development, including further training in oral history theories and methods and other transferable skills
11. To contribute to activities associated with the running and administration of the unit, or perform other duties, as required by the unit’s Director

Research Role Profile
As part of our commitment to career development for research staff, the University has developed 3 levels of research role profiles. These profiles set out firstly the generic competences and responsibilities expected of role holders at each level and secondly the general qualifications and experiences needed for entry at a particular level. It is unlikely that any single member of staff will be applying all these competences at any one time but he or she would be expected to display most of them over a period of time. Please follow this link to our Research Role Profiles

Newcastle University Oral History Collective
The successful applicant will join a rapidly growing and dynamic group of highly interdisciplinary researchers who are using oral history methods at Newcastle University. The wider grouping  includes colleagues from History, English, Archaeology, Media, Culture and Heritage, the Unit of Health and Society, the Business School, the Centre for Rural Economy, Geography and Education, Communication and Language Sciences. The successful applicant will have the opportunity to help build on Newcastle’s strengths in relation to oral history and to respond to some of the most important questions arising from the uses of oral history. This includes addressing questions relating to individual and collective memory, the relationship of oral history to biography and history, representativeness and generalisability, intersubjectivity, orality, social identity, and memory and ageing. We are also interested in the challenges of digital archiving, making collections accessible and reuse, and innovative uses of oral histories in communicating history to the wider public.
Oral history in Newcastle is in a particularly exciting phase of development. The University has made a substantial investment in oral history. As well as a Chair in Oral History, there is funding for two three-year Research Associate posts. This core team, based in History, will form a research focus not only for the wider University grouping, but with at least one community oral history organisation in the North East.
This Research Associate post is a newly created position to work with the Professor of Oral History, appointed in 2017, and a second Research Associate. The post holder will work both with the new Professor and with other staff on issues relating to oral history collection, analysis, archiving and dissemination. More specifically, the post holder will research the history of employment after 1945 using oral histories along with visual sources. Particular attention will be paid to engineering in North-East England. This post will be attractive to individuals who already have an interest and track record in research relating to oral history and the history of work, deindustrialisation and/or regeneration. Excellent knowledge and experience of oral history research designs, including archiving, is preferred. However, the post is open to candidates with proven strengths in oral history more generally.

Person Specification
Knowledge (including qualifications)
Essential

  • PhD in a relevant discipline
  • Undergraduate degree in a relevant subject
  • History of employment in post-1945 Britain

Skills (professional, technical, managerial, practical)
Essential

  • Excellent (written and verbal) communication skills
  • Ability to maintain confidentiality
  • Ability to work flexibly and co-operatively with others, but also to work independently
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • IT literate
  • Ability to prioritise key tasks
  • Ability to meet deadlines and to manage conflicting priorities
  • Innovative and flexible in approach
  • Ability to present results of analyses
  • Success in writing research papers for publication in peer-reviewed journals

Experience and Achievements
Essential

  • Experience in history of engineering or science or history of medicine, labour history or business history
  • Experience of oral history collection and analysis
  • Experience of carrying out research within agreed timelines, meeting project milestones and producing work to an appropriate standard
  • Experience of contributing to funding applications
  • Experience of collaborating with third sector and non-academic stakeholders

Desirable

  • Experience of using oral history in public history settings including in on-line and in museums
  • Experience in video oral history
  • Experience of using visual historical sources
  • Experience of working in social media
  • Experience in using oral history in relation to other data types
  • Experience of methods of co-production addressing questions of shared and sharing authority
  • Experience of archiving oral histories, especially born digital collections
  • Experience of developments in reusing oral histories
  • Experience of analytical (qualitative) and web page software
  • Success in securing funding for research