A guide to oral history for schools and youth groups
Collecting oral history or recording memories is just the start of your project. There are so many ways of using your recordings once you’ve made them. We’ve come across projects that have used their initial recordings to create art, sculpture, drama, dance, mime, poetry, embroidery, interactive exhibitions, websites, apps, podcasts, booklets, broadcasts and much more.
On this page we want to give you some recent examples and hopefully inspire you. Many of the 16 projects we’ve listed had small budgets and had never done anything like this before. As you will see, the schools and youth groups below used a myriad of different and innovative ways to share the memories they collected and inspire children. We have divided the examples into different age groups. Please get in contact with us if you would like us to showcase your project on these pages.
Village school 200th anniversary project: A Year 4 class interviewed 12 people who had been at their school from 1920s-1960s. A local playwright used the interviews to create a 30 minute play which the children performed to the community. The students also produced a radio programme, which you can listen to here.
Primary school in partnership with local museum: Year 5 pupils interviewed 6 carpet workers both in school and at the museum. Extracts from their interviews were used on an audio point in the museum. You can listen to an example here.
Transition project with Year 6 children: Children requiring additional support in making the transition from primary to secondary, worked with oral historians and a youth and community organisation for a number of weeks, recording 19 interviews on people’s memories of the area. The material collected resulted in an art exhibition and was archived locally.
Primary school in partnership with local charity: An oral history of food was recorded by Year 5 pupils from an inner-city school, with pupils from diverse backgrounds. Two classes each received four hours of professional training and a selected group recorded older people at a local lunch club. You can visit the project website here.
The legacy of the architect, Augustus Pugin was researched by Year 6 pupils from four Birmingham primary schools, who did filmed interviews and studied design at a Catholic seminary, where Pugin designed the chapel and interiors. Their interviews with seminary staff and local residents can be heard at http://www.pugin.org/
The first stage of an oral history project at St Francis Catholic Primary School in Melton Mowbray was a memory sharing morning where pupils, parents and staff, past and present, shared memories of the school from the 1950’s to the present day. Next pupils will be collecting individual interviews. This is a video they made of the event.
Art project in a secondary school: An entire Year 7 group (five classes of 30) interviewed various local people about farming and country life (in groups of 10). They then created art works (pottery tiles and banners) depicting events in their interviewees’ lives.
Secondary school project with children from traveller backgrounds: students from Years 7 to 9 interviewed relatives about growing up in wagons. They then scripted a short audio tour for a local museum which housed seven gypsy wagons. Here’s an example of the audio.
Multiple heritage pupils from Years 7 to 9 at Aldridge School, Walsall, recorded memories, from the 1950s onwards, of members of mixed race families. The interviews were archived by the local history centre and used to make a workbook and DVD for use in other schools.
Port Vale Football Club invited a class from Year 10 of Haywood Engineering College to the club for oral history training and to record memories of former players, footballers’ wives, spectators and club staff. Students from Staffordshire University taught them to take photos of the interviewees, film them and produce a DVD.
African footballers in this country were recorded by young volunteers from minority ethnic communities, sponsored by a Community Interest Company, with support from the Professional Footballers Association. Outcomes: a DVD, a touring exhibition and a school pack.
A youth theatre company recorded memories of social dance from the 1920s to 1970s and commissioned a script based on their recordings which was performed by company members. The company has done a number of other projects using oral history and drama; these include Patch to Plate (stories from allotments),WW1 (‘Shot at Dawn’ campaign) and ‘Everybody Dance Now’
Child migrants from the 1930s to the present were recorded by young people in a project managed by a community arts organization. An Oral History Society Regional Networker trained youth workers to in turn train young people to record the life-stories of immigrants and refugees who came to Birmingham as children, from 1938 to the present day. Details of the project can be found here.
Projects Spanning Primary and Secondary Ages
Children in a hospital school: children aged between 10 and 15 used the hospital’s archives, objects and oral histories to investigate past experiences of a patient and a teacher in the hospital school, before conducting their own interviews.
Art and oral history on a former Coal Board estate. An oral historian and a community artist worked with local high, middle and primary schools and a youth club, to record audio memories of retired miners and their families and produce public art works based on these memories. CDs were archived in the local museum and one extract can be heard here.
Members of a theatre youth club aged 10 to 17 learned to make film and audio recordings of past performers, patrons and theatre staff. Some are included on this website.