At first it seemed to have been a quiet year – but I’ve probably been too immersed in the redevelopment of the Oral History Society’s website! So if your project is not in this report, please do contact me with information – or even consider writing a post for our blog page about the project!
It has been a quiet year for enquiries, no doubt due to the fact that everyone is still coming to grips with the changing circumstances of the pandemic. I also hope that the revamped website is enabling people to find answers to their queries directly. The guidance on remote and in-person interviewing provided by Charlie Morgan and others at the British Library has been particularly invaluable.
Perhaps of interest is a request I had from Liam Ellis, Welsh Language Manager at National Lottery Fund for a meeting to discuss ways of encouraging and improving support for Welsh language oral history projects. I had an interesting and useful discussion with Liam and Julie Hughes, their Engagement Manager for North Wales, unpicking the additional challenges of meeting best practice for interviewing, documenting and presenting oral history in community projects where language skills are variable. Liam’s objective was to produce a guidance document to support the use of Welsh in projects in Wales.
Projects undertaken or published during 2021
One project which is already dealing with the challenges of operating bilingually is Carneddau Voices, for which I provided training last summer. It is part of a wider Carneddau Landscape Partnership scheme which has received funding by the National Heritage Lottery Fund. The oral history project aims to share stories, memories and information about Carneddau communities and their connection to landscape. The interviews will cover topics such as changes to farming practices, landscape and land management, logistics of hill farming in the Carneddau, specific memories and reminiscences, social change, place names and traditions. They will be a personal record of the past 60 years or more of the Carneddau. Additional themes will relate to other forms of engagement with the landscape heritage of the area such as upland settlement, community events, traditions, art and literature, leisure activity, the water catchment system (of reservoirs and leats), fishing, woodland management, tourism and industry.
It was good to see the successful culmination of two important oral history projects this year. Windrush Cymru – Our Voices, Our Stories, Our History is an oral history project delivered by Race Council Cymru and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Other project partners have been Amgueddfa Cymru, Wales Millenium Centre, People’s Collection Wales, Windrush Cymru Elders and Black History Wales 365. All the recordings are being archived as part of the national collection at St Fagans National Museum of History. A travelling exhibition, launched during Black History Month 2021, gathered much attention from the media and visitors to Amgueddfa Cymru sites across Wales. You can find out more about it via this YouTube video clip.
Archif Menywod Cymru-Women’s Archive Wales marked the end of their latest oral history project, Gwir Gofnod o Gyfnod – Setting the Record Straight, with two events – one at the National Library of Wales where the collections will be deposited, and the other at the Senedd in Cardiff. This was a Senedd Cymru and National Heritage Lottery funded oral history project, interviewing women Assembly Members / Members of Senedd on HD video, to celebrate 20 years of devolved government at the National Assembly Wales (soon to become Senedd Cymru). Overcoming the challenges of video interviewing during a pandemic was described by Catrin Edwards in one of the first blog posts on our new website in the spring of 2021. In all, 55 interviews have been recorded and 42 interview clips can be viewed on AMC/WAW’s website.
At last year’s Oral History and the Media conference, we heard from Fflur Morse about Amgueddfa Cymru’s partnership with BBC Cymru Wales to celebrate a century of broadcasting in Wales in 2023. An exhibition is planned which will incorporate oral histories of the impact of the BBC on everyday lives in Wales. This will draw not only on what recordings already archived at the Museum can tell us about listening and viewing habits in the past, but also an ongoing oral history project relating to the recent closure of BBC Broadcasting House Llandaff, Cardiff.
Finally, it is worth noting that collections resulting from many previous oral history projects found their way onto People’s Collection Wales during 2021. For example, 193 clips recorded by the Jewish History Association of South Wales have been uploaded to PCW, as have recordings made by VCS Cymru for their Chronicle project. Chronicle was a two-year community heritage project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which finished in 2017. The project was run by volunteers from Cardiff from a variety of backgrounds. Their aim was to collect and gather stories about volunteering and volunteer work in Cardiff from 1914-2014 in a variety of ways in order to make those stories available to the public. The increase in oral history items on PCW also reflects the output, via the National Library of Wales, of the British Library’s Unlocking our Sound Heritage project to digitally preserve rare and unique sound recordings. As a final postscript, the bilingual adaptation of the OHS’ Oral History: a Guide for Schools (found under the Learn section of PCW) has to date received 1605 visits.
My thanks to all those who have written blog posts and contributed photos/videos for the new website to ensure Welsh projects are on the map.