Scottish Oral History Centre
(Angela Bartie & Arthur McIvor)
This has been a very productive year for oral history in Scotland and for the SOHC. An important development has been the move of the SOHC to purpose-built facilities at the University of Strathclyde (a formal re-launch is planned for January 2013). This includes a training lab, archive, and Special Projects, interview and editing rooms. This substantially improves the capacity of the Centre to deliver oral history training and will operate as a hub for community and academic oral history projects, as well as our seminar series.
We were delighted to welcome Dr David Walker to the post of Research Coordinator, Dr Susan Morrison as a Research Associate and to see Dr Angela Bartie secure an open-ended lecturing contract. These colleagues bring a wealth of oral history experience to the Centre. Another staff member, Dr Andrew Perchard, was appointed to a permanent lectureship in the Business School at the University of Strathclyde. The Centre also hosted Professor Steven High, Director of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, as a Visiting Professor, for two months in March-April 2012.
Amongst ongoing research work at the SOHC are projects on youth gangs (Bartie), the arts scene in 1960s Scotland (Bartie, with Eleanor Bell, English Studies), on working lives (Walker and McIvor), on the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (Pattinson) and on Forensic Science (Walker). Andrew Perchard’s work on the Aluminium communities in the Highlands has culminated in the publication of the impressive Aluminiumville in 2012. The Centre recently completed AHRC-funded work in collaboration with Glasgow Museums on work-life oral histories in the city (Walker and McIvor), including the digitisation of the 2000 Glasgow Lives collection. This wonderful resource has now been made much more accessible. Pattinson (PI) and McIvor (CI) have also recently been successful in securing a major AHRC Research Award to undertake a large-scale oral history project on the wartime Reserved Occupations in the UK. Dr Linsey Robb has been appointed as Research Associate and work will start in earnest on this project in January 2013. The Centre was also awarded money from the Hudson Trust to host ‘Our Secret War’, a collection of interviews conducted by Martyn Cox with resisters and Home Front personnel, whilst Pattinson and Prof. Rod Kedward (Emeritus Professor at Sussex) are currently compiling an inventory of Anglo-French Resistance oral testimony.
Our postgraduate community also continues to grow, and there have been three outstanding PhD submissions in the past year by Fiona Frank (on the transmission of Jewish identity through close study of several generations of the Hoppenstein family), Linsey Robb (cultural depictions of British working men, 1939 – 1945) and Alison Chand (Glasgow in wartime, 1939-45). Our teaching of oral history has also expanded, with two new oral history theory and methodology courses at Third Year and Honours levels introduced in 2012. The latter is an innovative ‘Work Placement in Oral History’ class which locates students trained in oral interviewing in local museums and archives.
Outside the SOHC, oral history has also been thriving, with a vast range of local, community and academic oral history projects up and down the country. For example, the Scottish freemasonry movement has a major oral history project underway, whilst the Scottish Council on Deafness finished its HLF oral history project in 2012 on the deaf community, with the production of four outstanding DVDs. A Stakeholders Group has also been established to investigate the viability of a National Sound Archive for Scotland and they are currently undertaking an audit of oral history resources across the country. New community oral history projects have also been initiated at Govan and at Govanhill in Glasgow. The latter (coordinated by Dr Susan Morrison) is a major HLF project ambitiously aiming to interview over 200 local residents from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds (over 50 different languages are spoken in Govanhill). The SOHC are providing extensive oral history training for the local volunteers. With the new SOHC facilities at University of Strathclyde we are looking forward to developing these community-academic links and expanding our activities even further in the years to come.
Scottish National Sound Archive
The most important activity in oral history in Scotland this year has been the announcement of government funding for a Scottish National Sound Archive Pilot scheme.
First Minister, Alex Salmond, announced in July that the National Library is to receive £100,000 for sound archiving development.
NLS will work on an archive pilot with Skye-based digitisation project, Tobar An Dualchais/Kist O Riches. This is a collaborative project which was set up to preserve, digitise, catalogue and make available online several thousand hours of Gaelic and Scots recordings. The website contains a wealth of material such as folklore, songs, music, history, poetry, traditions, stories and other information. The material has been collected from all over Scotland and beyond from the 1930s onwards.
The recordings come from the School of Scottish Studies (University of Edinburgh), BBC Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland’s Canna Collection. Martyn Wade, National Librarian and Chief Executive of NLS, said of the funding announcement:
‘The National Library welcomes this support from the Scottish Government and looks forward to working with Tobar an Dualchais to pilot a national sound archive for Scotland. The Library’s work already includes the popular Scottish Screen Archive collections and therefore we are excited at the opportunity to expand the national collections to cover sound as well.’
Stakeholders are meeting regularly at the moment to develop the project.
Some interesting oral history projects include: Celebrating Potential
Breadmakers Rise To The Occasion: Provost Approves
Garvald Edinburgh, well known in the Lothians for its Bakery, run with workers with learning disabilities, launched an exciting new initiative in August.
With finance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Celebrating Potential Project will enable Garvald’s Members and Tenants to research and record their own histories and that of the organisation.
In an endeavour to blend their traditional arts and crafts, such as pottery, glasswork, joinery and puppetry, with the recorded histories and modern technologies, Garvald’s project will create an ambitious legacy to communicate with the wider public.
The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, the Rt. Hon. Donald Wilson, who officially launched the project at Orwell Arts Centre, commented,
“I’ve been familiar with the work of Garvald Edinburgh and the vital service they provide for many years and I’m delighted that, through this innovative project, the wider public will have an opportunity to see just what a wonderful job they do.
“As someone with a strong interest and background in technology, I was fascinated to learn about the plans to use contemporary technology to communicate the outcomes of the project.”
After recruiting volunteers and recording histories over the next year, the subsequent outcomes will celebrate the individual experiences that make up the story of Garvald Edinburgh.
- An exhibition of art and craft work where each piece contains a QR code. When scanned with a smartphone, the object will act as a portal to see a video of the people who made the object and hear their stories.
- A web based archive, to preserve and store the material generated by the project and have the audio, video, photographs and transcriptions available in an easily accessed online format.
- A publication documenting Garvald Edinburgh’s history, distributed to Primary Schools and contributing to the Curriculum for Excellence Scheme.
- A film, edited from material collected and recorded over the year, building on the organisation’s award winning Breadmakers documentary.
Noting The Tradition
The National Piping Centre has received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to undertake an oral history project called “Noting The Tradition”. This will involve undertaking oral history interviews with people who have been involved in piping at all levels and all over Scotland in the past 50 years.
The project is looking to recruit volunteers from all over Scotland to undertake at least one interview to contribute to the project. Volunteers will receive training in oral history methods and protocols, as well as handling digital recording equipment and formatting the files for upload to the Noting the Tradition website.
The National Piping Centre Principal, Roddy MacLeod, commented, “This is an exciting project which will add to the historical and heritage resources available to researchers and members of the public interested in the history of piping. It also offers the opportunity to become involved in the creation of an important and lasting resource telling the story of Scotland’s iconic instrument, the Great Highland Bagpipe. We hope that you will be inspired to join us in this vital heritage work.”
This is an HLF funded project looking at migration to and from the Inverclyde area over a 200 year period. Working closely with schools and local volunteers, the project has produced a number of exciting outcomes, but at its core is a web archive, holding oral histories, audio, video, images and documents which have been collected over the past year.