The international Memory Studies Association recently released the call for papers for its 2023 conference, to be held in Newcastle. Oral History Collective member Dr Alison Atkinson-Phillips is part of the organising committee. Here she explains why she’s so excited to see this particular conference held here in the North East.Continue reading
In this Lug piece, Siobhan Warrington (NUOHUC) and her colleagues Hue Nguyen (An Giang University) and Laura Beckwith (Northumbria University) provide an update on the participatory oral history, mapping and photography work with two rural communities in the Mekong Delta as part of the Living Deltas Hub. Siobhan, Laura and Hue are working with a student-staff research team at An Giang University: Mai Thị Minh Thuy and Nguyễn Xuân Lan (research coordinators); and Hoang Uyen Cao, Huynh Linh, Lam Duy and Phan Cuong (student researchers). This is a follow-up to the post which introduced this project.
Note: Due to increasing Covid-19 infection rates in Vietnam, it has not been possible for the team to visit the communities since early July; this post is based on their visits between May and July 2021.Continue reading
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 firstname.lastname@example.org For further details of how to apply for this Northern Bridge Collaborative Doctoral Award
In this Lug post, Andy Clark discusses his experience conducting research for the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice. Along with a team of researchers, he contributed to, and co-authored, a major report focused on community experiences of Serious Organised Crime in Scotland. He reflects on utilising oral history methods to examine current experiences and problems in relation to organised crime, and contributing to a policy report.
Last week Matt Perry and I visited the Old Low Light Heritage Centre. Matt along with Sarah Campbell teaches oral history on the second year undergraduate module, Oral History and Memory. I’ll be writing more about the module next week, but want to acknowledge that our oral history teaching more broadly relies on community and institutional partners like the Old Low Light. So thank you to David Bavaird, chair of Trustees, Pearl Pearl Saddington, Community, Heritage and Events Manager, and Guy Moody, Operations Manager for their guidance and offers of help.
The Old Low Light is a fascinating community history venue. Give it a visit if you are in the area – they are a hospitable bunch and the exhibitions are great.
Many of the exhibits are a result of co-production between Centre staff and members of the local community. Much talked about, but much less practiced, co-production is neither easy nor quickly achieved. What is particularly striking about the approach at Old Low Light is the variety of ways that Centre staff have worked with volunteers and the rich range of outcomes that have been achieved. As well as a permanent exhibition to commercial fishing in the area, there are co-curated paintings, photography from ex-shipyard workers and my favourites: the memory table (the table itself was salvaged from a trawler) and a short video of fishing memories.
The Centre also features a series of talks and events throughout the year.
I’m looking forward to developing our partnership with the Centre.
Graham Smith, 21 September, 2017