Saturday, 13 April 2013

Oral Histories Refresher Training at Central Library, 2 April

On Tuesday 2 April we rounded off the Easter break by attending another great Oral Histories training session with Izzy Mohammed in Birmingham’s Central Library. To read the post about our last training session, click here. We discussed what ‘History’ and ‘Heritage’ are and what they mean for oral history projects like Digbeth Speaks.

We found that oral histories are a way of capturing personal stories, memories, experiences and feelings that do not usually get recorded in official documents, and may also not be passed on through the generations. They’re able to give an idea of the diversity of an area – that is everything within a given locality or system (to use Izzy’s words!). Digbeth Speaks is aiming to capture stories and feelings about Digbeth today that would otherwise be lost and preserve them for the future in Birmingham’s archives. Exciting stuff, especially to think that what we do now, and the stories that are shared with us, will be there for decades, or even centuries (!) to come!

We listened to some examples from previous oral history projects including Block Storeys, which looked at the stories of people living in tower block communities in Birmingham, and an oral history project that recorded stories relating to corner shops. We were all absolutely riveted by what these people had to say about their experiences and memories. It’s so evocative and engaging to listen to someone’s thoughts and feelings about their lives and communities.

We also got some great advice on carrying out our interviews, including preparing the interviewee really well and remembering to ask for key facts such as how old someone was when something they mention happened. This means that we can create a timeline and cross-reference information in the interviews, which is also fantastic for future researchers using the Digbeth Speaks archive.

All in all, it was a really enjoyable afternoon and thanks to everyone for coming along. We’re all set and ready to get interviewing!!

Katie Hall, Project Manager

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