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Institutions
Volume: 42, Issue: 1 (2014)
Articles
Dupont comes to tobacco road: Oral history and rural industrialisation in the post-World War Two American South
This article uses oral history to explore an example of second wave industrialisation in the rural American South after the Second World War. First-generation workers - male and female, black and white - describe their experiences working in the 'world's first polyester plant', opened in 1953 by the DuPont company in an underdeveloped area of North Carolina where tobacco was economic king. Topics include the transition from farm to factory; adjustments in work and family life; challenges and accommodations to traditional gender and racial hierarchies; and new opportunities that opened after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Workers can also trace the demise of the plant less than half a century after it opened. In part, our oral history interviews offered them a chance to celebrate the birth and grieve the death of a culture that had been central to their lives.
Author(s): Lu Ann Jones
Keywords: industrialisation, American South, DuPont, work culture

Top down/bottom up: Using oral history to re-examine government institutions
Institutional history, which fell into disfavour over the last generation as historians focused on social and cultural history, has been regaining interest. Oral historians, who once argued over the merits of top-down and bottom-up approaches, have discovered that the methodology works well at any level; and for institutions it works best when approached from both directions. Offering a model for other institutional projects, this paper focuses on the oral history programme conducted by the US Senate Historical Office with former senators and staff. Recognising that perspectives depend on where people stand and that it could not interview everyone, the project sought a core sample that cut through the various strata within the institution. Interviewees have helped Senate historians understand how the seemingly arcane rules of the Senate work, why those rules have survived for so long and how a seemingly unchanging institution has slowly transformed itself in dramatic ways.
Author(s): Donald A Ritchie
Keywords: US Senate, institutions, legislative tactics, parliamentary rules, traditions, filibusters, communications, technology

From faith to food: Using oral history to study corporate mythology in Canadian manufacturing firms
The study of corporate mythology, particularly through oral history, has received increasing attention from business historians. The role of corporate mythology is examined at two Canadian manufacturing companies: Loewen (a wooden window manufacturer in Steinbach, Manitoba) and WT Hawkins (makers of Cheezies, a cheese-flavoured snack made from extruded corn). Oral histories and Roland Barthes' writings on mythology are used to study an advertising campaign at Loewen, while corporate records and oral histories are used to explore Hawkins' corporate mythology. The author concludes that corporate mythology succeeded at Hawkins but failed at Loewen: Hawkins built a following for a single product made using outdated equipment, while Loewen reduced its workforce and was sold to a foreign holding company.
Author(s): Janis Thiessen
Keywords: business history, mythology, Hawkins Cheezies, Loewen windows, advertising

'No-one had asked me about that before': A focus on the body and 'other' resistance experiences in Italian Second World War storytelling
In recent years, an increasing body of research has effectively problematised public historical and cultural narratives of European Second World War anti-Nazi and anti-fascist resistance movements; nevertheless, traditional approaches fail to address the embodied experience of living a day-to-day resistance against Nazi and fascist forces, and marginalise the human, contradictory and experiential elements of the struggle. This article focuses on some issues and challenges associated with the engagement with memories of Second World War Italian Resistance veterans. Drawing upon oral history interviews with twenty-eight veterans, the complexity of the dynamics between person, emotion and place comes to the fore.
Author(s): Sarah De Nardi
Keywords: storytelling, embodiment, Second World War, Italy, resistance

Race and discomposure in oral histories with white feminist activists
This article arises from my research on ethnicity and race in the English women's movement post-1968. Oral history interviews with both white and ethnic minority feminists from this period revealed the complexity of these debates and the emotions they generated. I begin this article with a discussion of the dynamics that race brought to these interviews and of the concepts of composure, discomposure and politicisation. I then examine the oral testimony of four white feminist activists. Exploring these oral histories offers, I suggest, useful insight as to how discomposure can work to effect politicisation; and conversely, how composure can be a symptom of a lack of political engagement.
Author(s): Natalie Thomlinson
Keywords: Feminism, race, composure/discomposure, politicisation

Changing roles, new self-perceptions: Rural women in Lower Wharfedale 1914-1951
Farm women in Yorkshire during the period 1914-1951 are often portrayed as sensible, unimaginative and domestic. This localised study draws on established rural oral history literature, literary fiction and interviews with both male and female local participants to explore the veracity of this stereotype through the themes of women and domesticity, women as lynchpins and the concept of separate spheres. The study concludes that lack of interest in feminism did not preclude women from taking up a practical feminist attitude to their everyday lives; and that this led to women gaining a freedom to move between traditionally masculine and feminine workplaces well before rural men achieved a similar fluidity regarding acceptable work.
Author(s): Jane Rowling
Keywords: women, community, agriculture, feminism, Yorkshire

Public History
The children of Craig-Y-Nos: Life in a Welsh tuberculosis sanstorium, 1922-1959. Reflecting on the project's challenging issues
The Children of Craig-y-nos, a public and oral history of life in a Welsh tuberculosis (TB) sanatorium, began in 2006 as a daily blog and has achieved international recognition. Although elements of the project have been passed to the community in which it originated, as was the intention, its creators have remained the point of contact for potential spin-off projects and for troubleshooting dark and challenging issues. These include disturbing revelations of institutional abuse; long-standing misconceptions about the sanatorium and its staff which have resulted in anguished lives for some ex-patients; ethical issues relating to individual and community responsibility; and archiving the project's valuable but ephemeral resource, the blog. Lessons learned may help others contemplating a project in which digging up the past might unearth long-buried secrets and pose problems for the future.
Author(s): Carole Reeves
Keywords: blogs, children, sexual abuse, sanatorium, public history, tuberculosis

Reviews
Research Methods for Memory Studies
Author(s): Emily Keightley and Michael Pickering (eds)

The Routledge Guide to Interviewing
Author(s): Anna Bryson and Sean McConville (assisted by Mairead McClean)

An Uncertain Future: Voices of a French Jewish Community, 1940-2012
Author(s): Robert I Weiner and Richard E Sharpless

Nurturing the Nation: The Asian Contribution to the Nhs Since 1948
Author(s): Debbie Weekes-Bernard (with interviews by Klara Schmitz, Saher Ali & Valentina Migliarini)

Oral History in the Visual Arts
Author(s): Linda Sandino and Matthew Partington (eds)

Interviewing for Education and Social Science Research: The Gateway Approach
Author(s): Carolyn Mears