London Region Annual Report – 2012

(Pam Schweitzer)

RTRT: Remembering Together: Reminiscence Training for families living with dementia, supported by the EU. This Reminiscence Arts project has an international and a local side.
It is a development of the original Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today project which began in 1997 and has been running ever since across the UK and in several EU countries, and which continues to evolve. Over the last 18 months, I have been coordinating 11 partners in different EU countries following a joint project involving people with dementia and their family carers. In each country, groups of families have met over a 3 – 6 month period on a weekly basis to explore through reminiscence and related arts activities their own life stories. They have worked on a one-to-one basis, in small groups and as a whole group on a series of sessions covering major events in the life course. Partners in the international project have then shared their results in international meetings (N. Ireland, Finland, Spain and Germany) of the partners and through a dedicated website: www.rememberingtogether.eu

The London-based part of this project is also recorded on the illustrated website mentioned above. There have been 3 London-based groups, as follows: In Greenwich (in association with Woolwich Memorial Hospital) a group of Asian elders and their family and paid carers, working in 4 Indian languages and making a wall-hanging for their day centre with an Asian artist (I reported briefly on this project in the previous network report.)

In Westminster (in association with Westminster Arts) a mixed group of local families who then worked with 2 local artists on the making of personal cushions (involving drawing, photography and sewing)

In Camden (in association with Camden Carers) families met for a number of groups reminiscence sessions and then went on to make artistic end-products with artists, including memory boxes, life story books and embroidered collages, all of which were displayed at the project’s last international meeting in Kassel, Germany in June 2012.

Two further groups have run in Bradford and Carlisle and information on these is also available through the website www.rememberingtogether.eu

This project has just received a small amount of additional funding to further the work and train more group leaders. It is called RYCTT (Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today Training) and will run till June 2012.

We have started work, both locally and internationally, with a group of families established in Woolwich and an international meeting coming up in Prague to agree an international training scheme and an apprenticeship scheme to develop the work of reminiscence in dementia care in all participating countries.

Reminiscence Theatre Archive
Greenwich University accepts the archive of recorded and transcribed interviews and related theatre work: In May 2012, I transferred all the surviving material relating to reminiscence theatre created during my years as Founder and Artistic Director of Age Exchange Theatre Trust (1983-2005) The archive consists of audio recordings on key themes in social history of 20th century, including women’s war work. Working life on the River Thames, Inter-war housing estates round London, Health Services before the NHS, Jewish East End and Irish memories, plus many more. In many cases there are matching transcripts and accompanying photos. The scripts formed from these reminiscences are included, plus production photographs, tour schedules, press reports, etc.

The University is not only storing the archive, but actively working on it in various curriculum areas, including drama and media studies, creative writing, history and local studies, health and social sciences. For example, drama students have been exploring the archive as a source for new theatre productions. At the launch of the archive 3 of these short plays were performed by the students and will now be touring local sheltered housing units in the area and more are in preparation. Reminiscence Theatre will be incorporated into the curriculum and the oral history component will feature in the history syllabus. The University has recently launched its excellent oral history website reflecting wartime Greenwich memories. You can see it at www.memoriesofwar.org.uk

A website will be developed in the next few months, with support from the University history department, which will explain the website and describe its contents with short examples of oral testimony, reminiscence theatre scripts, photos and DVD recordings of shows. Students on drama and history courses will work on the site alongside assistants from Poland and Finland who are working with us through an EU scheme.

Museum of London

(Sarah Gudgin)

We have continued to build our oral history collection, adding new interviews ranging from people talking about the Occupy Movement in EC4, to the Manager of the Olympic and Paralympics Village talking about another temporary community over in the newly created postcode of E20.
We are also in the process of acquiring two new digital collections from two very different oral history projects. One reflecting the working life and governance of the Thames, and the other documenting the experiences of a river community living on historic boats moored on the Thames. These two collections will compliment existing historic recordings from our Port and River Collection.
We are now closer to completing our target for digitalising the entire oral history collection, ensuring its long term preservation and offering greater access for the future. In addition we are now constructing a Digital Collections Policy which will inform our work with all forms of digital media and collecting.

Collections Online database
The Museum of London launched a project early in 2012 to develop its Collections Online database where over 90,000 records will be available online.
The main focus of the work of the oral history team during this year has been to create records for oral history to feature in the Collections Online database. This will help to make the oral history collection more accessible to the public. At present researchers currently access the oral history collections directly via appointments, hand lists and analogue/ digital listening copies at the History Collections Department in the Museum.
Collections Online allows people to search across all our collections in one go. The content covers the 3,000 items on display in the Galleries of Modern London, but more will be added every month until the Museum’s entire collection are accessible through Collections Online.

Olympic Collecting
We are in the process of creating a record of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics Games, looking at the impact of the Games and the legacy in the host city through oral history interviews and contemporary collecting.
In addition to reflecting the experiences and perspectives of Londoners from the Olympic Park area and its local communities, we aim to record the experiences and perspectives of people involved behind the scenes with the organisation of the Olympic Games and Paralympics Games as well as torch bearers, Games makers and elite athletes who have competed in the Olympic Games and Paralympics Games in London in 2012. The contemporary collecting will involve material objects such as an Olympic torch, costume items and ephemera relevant to this important event in the capital.

The Recorded Media Project
The Recorded Media Project continued apace at the Museum of London during 2011-2012. To date 70% of the cassette collection has been digitised which includes the London History Workshop Sound and Video Archive and the Museum’s Core Collection. Prior to digitisation cataloguing of the non-accessioned oral history interviews was conducted from paper documentation relating to the interviews. Now with the digital audio accessible, data cleaning and completion of cataloguing the interviews are preserved and accessible for future generations.
Bill Lowry will continue the work started under the Recorded Media Project of digitising the oral history collection and making it accessible via the Museum’s website.

Museum of London: Opening Up to Digital Environments
In April 2011 the Museum of London was delighted to be awarded a £13million Arts Council England grant, for a programme of work aimed at ‘Opening Up’ several strands of work across the Museum, including Archaeology, Communities and Partnerships and Volunteers.
Hilary Young has been appointed as the Museum’s first Digital Curator, and will work with Bill Lowry on the Museum’s Opening Up to Digital Environments. Hilary will conduct new digital collecting projects for the Museum exploring the potential to collect and display non oral history sound-based objects, film, social media and web based applications. It is an exciting time for the Museum as it explores a new area of collecting intangible objects that represent the stories and life of London.

Occupy Oral History and Creative Commons
Early in 2012 the Museum participated in discussions with Occupy Oral History at the Bank of Ideas in Finsbury Square and the Occupy Library at the St Paul’s camp. Capturing Occupier’s experiences of this contemporary protest presented an interesting challenge to the Museum who often works retrospectively with community groups to record their past histories. It also opened up debate within the Museum’s oral history group around recording oral history interviews with participants in current events.
The Museum was offered material culture objects from both the Bank of Ideas site and the St Paul’s camp including the Bank of Ideas banner and a woollen hat knitted by a pensioners group to keep Occupiers’ heads warm in the chilling winter months. These objects presented opportunities to record their owners’ stories and experiences of participating in the Occupy movement. The Occupiers have stated their wish for their interviews to be available under a Creative Commons licence. This presents a challenge to the Museum, which we are working through this at the moment. We hope to have records of the interviews available on Collections Online within the coming months.

Little Boxes of Memories
The Oral history department has been involved in creating Little Boxes of Memories. This is a multi-sensory story sharing experience for young people who have severe and complex disabilities at Greenvale School. The Little Boxes of Memories convey the experiences and memories inspired by recordings done with older Londoners using touch, smell, sound and visual stimuli. The boxes have been designed with young people with severe and complex disabilities, volunteers, and artists, and is collaboration between Entelechy Arts and the Museum of London.
‘Little Boxes of Memories’ will tour to 10 Special Education Needs (SEN) Schools in London to allow the children to learn from the experiences of the older generation.

#Citizencurators
#Citizencurators was the Museum’s pilot social media collecting project that ran throughout the 2 weeks of the Olympic Games.
We invited 16 Twitter users to use the project hashtag #citizencurators to tweet about their experiences and reactions to life in London during the Games. The Museum made a pledge to harvest any tweets that used the hashtag, in order to explore the potential of capturing the immediacy of events around the Olympics as they unfold. The Museum harvested c.7000 tweets and retweets over a 2 week period, creating a document of small group of Londoners’ lives during this time. As we begin to data-mine this material it is possible to broadly categorise the types of tweets that used the #citizencurators hashtag. These include daily experiences, documenting day to day experiences or a changing sense of the city. Debates reflecting on wider stories surrounding the Olympics. Community impact, documenting the impact of the Olympics on local communities or environments. For further information http://citizencurators.com/

Many East Ends gallery- Museum of London, Docklands
The consultation process and concept development for an exciting new gallery to replace New Port, New City Gallery at the Museum of London Docklands is under way.
Many East Ends is a working title, which encapsulates the starting point of this consultation, acknowledging that there will be multiple perspectives on the subject. The process for creating the new gallery involves a programme of research, consultation and collaboration, with a range of individuals and groups, whose contributions have stimulated discussions and debates around how the story of the East End could be told.
Oral history from our collections and video recordings will feature strongly within the new gallery. This will include recently digitalised oral histories as well as material from our Port and River Collection, made available as a result of the work carried out through the Recorded Media Project.

The War on our Doorstep: London’s East End and how the Blitz changed it forever
By Harriet Salisbury (Author), and the Museum of London Group [Paperback: published by Ebury Press]
Over the past year author Harriet Salisbury has been a regular researcher at the Museum delving into the Museum’s oral history collection whilst writing her book, The War on our Doorstep. The book is a fascinating history of the East End of London from the start of the 20th century to the late 1950s, as told by those who lived through this period and is based on the oral history recordings held within the Museum of London’s oral history collection.
Read about the discoveries that Harriet made while delving into the Museum of London’s oral history collections for her new book, in this blog.
http://www.mymuseumoflondon.org.uk/blogs/blog/still-lives-by-harriet-salisbury/

Oral History Blogs:
Catch up with some of our oral history blogs here:
http://www.mymuseumoflondon.org.uk/blogs/blog/being-proud-of-pride/
http://www.mymuseumoflondon.org.uk/blogs/blog/taking-a-trip-down-memory-lane/
http://www.mymuseumoflondon.org.uk/blogs/blog/listening-for-a-change/

Research and Access to the Collections
The Museum continues to provide advice in response to a steady stream of enquiries from people from a range of backgrounds and sectors working on oral history collecting and display projects. We have seen an increasing number of students looking at oral history as part of museum studies and migration studies courses among others, and an interest in our work with LGBTQ oral history and collecting.
The Museum welcomes researchers who wish to study its stored collections. An appointment must be arranged before your visit, and we have recently updated our research procedures. Information and a Research Request From can be found at: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Collections-Research/Access-enquiries/Research-Visits.htm.

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