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Spring 2017
Volume: 45, Issue: 1 (2017)
From .wav to .txt: why we still need transcripts in the digital age
Oral historians have debated whether and how to transcribe their interviews since the 1960s. New digital tools for indexing audio and video files appear to provide a powerful and exciting alternative to transcription. Despite such challenges, however, transcription continues to serve important purposes of long-term preservation, analysis and dissemination. After surveying the transcription controversy over the past half-century, I outline five arguments in favour of transcription. I argue that archiving transcripts is a political act that places our oral histories on equal footing with government-generated documents in state-run archives.
Author(s): Alexander Freund
Keywords: digitisation; archives; transcript; interview

Auto/biographical oral histories, from 'oral memoirs' to The Life of Nate Shaw (1948-1974)
This essay considers how a selection of early US oral history projects served to extend written, auto/biographical traditions, but also helped break open the traditional canon and challenge generic definitions. It begins with 'oral memoirs' produced by Columbia University's Oral History Research Office (1940s-1950s), then focuses on auto/biographies by Malcolm X/Alex Haley (1965) and Nate Shaw/ Theodore Rosengarten (1974). These narratives, modelled on the traditional individual autobiography or biography, represented the life of a single person; the latter two also challenged generic conventions, reflecting an early moment when US oral history began to turn from elites to previously marginalised voices. The essay analyses how co-creation of texts by interviewer and narrator prevents their final categorisation as autobiographical or biographical, and argues that Rosengarten's use of the tape recorder enables The Life of Nate Shaw to move furthest from literary tradition in its incorporation of orality.
Author(s): Shelley Trower
Keywords: autobiography; biography; tape recorder; black history; orality

'We might go into double act mode': 'professional recollectors', rehearsed memory and its uses
This article examines the issues that arise when interviewing subjects experienced in recounting their own histories. Brian Harrison has called such interviewees 'professional recollectors', and the article focuses on a single interview conducted with Glaswegian twin brothers John and Peter Douglas, both of whom had careers as cinema projectionists. The interview demonstrates some of the ways in which memory is structured into a 'performance', and the implications that this has for oral historians. Although the anecdotal aspects of the interview (and others like it) offer a highly constructed and rehearsed set of narratives, the article concludes that they are nevertheless useful historical sources because the anecdotal 'set-ups' frequently involve detailed accounts of the working life of the projectionists.
Author(s): Richard Wallace
Keywords: anecdotes; performance; professional recollectors; projectionists; group interviews; twins

'It didn't just come out of nowhere did it?': the origins of the women's liberation movement in 1960s Britain
This article uses oral testimony to examine the social origins of the women's liberation movement (WLM) in Britain circa 1968-1982. Whilst we have a well-established narrative for the political origins of the movement, little work has been done on the background to the women of the 'baby boomer' generation who became second wave feminists. Examining life histories, particularly from the perspective of routes to feminist thinking, identifies such factors as family background, education and everyday sexism to create a picture of the women who made a movement which helped change the face of Britain. This article also seeks to demonstrate that the WLM was broadly based, with a substantial presence of working-class women, and was truly national in character.
Author(s): Sue Bruley
Keywords: sexism; feminism; mothers; class empowerment

Voices of the university: anniversary culture and oral histories of higher education
This article uses the case study of the University of Warwick's 'Voices of the University: memories of Warwick, 1965-2015' project to explore the politics and practicalities of institutional oral histories and anniversary culture. It sketches the project's aims and its position within the university's wider anniversary celebrations. We then explore how interviewees reflect on the university at fifty and argue that a significant portion of interviewees seek to use their interviews to tell an alternative institutional history. The article finishes with an exploration of student protest. Using interviews with students and staff, we reflect on how the highly-publicised protests in the 1970s have been remembered. Overall, we argue that anniversary culture prompts individuals to consider who owns institutional memories.
Author(s): Grace Huxford and Richard Wallace
Keywords: university; higher education; oral history; communicative memory; institutional memory

Composing poverty: remembering charity work in post-war Manchester
This article uses oral history to explore memories of poverty and charitable work in post-war Manchester. Despite significant historical interest in post-war welfare, there has been no detailed investigation of how charity workers remember their experiences. Drawing on the concept of memory 'composure', the article examines the oral testimonies of two former employees of the Wood Street Mission, one of the oldest charitable organisations in the city. Specifically, the article explores how these charity workers have composed and narrated their stories. It demonstrates that contrasting understandings and images of the term 'poverty' shaped their oral testimonies and efforts to make sense of experiences in charity work.
Author(s): Mark Crosher
Keywords: life stories; memory; intersubjectivity; poverty; homelessness; charity

Public History
Echoes of protest: untold stories of the 1984-1985 UK Miners' Strike
This article looks at a collaborative project by artist and film-maker Esther Johnson and film-maker and writer Debbie Ballin titled 'Echoes of Protest', which investigated the legacy of being involved in significant protest movements from a child's perspective, in order to understand the role protest can play in the lives of children and explore its aftermath. The text draws upon oral testimony and photography to highlight a seldom-explored perspective of the 1984-1985 UK Miners' Strike. The stories collected are from adults remembering what it was like to grow up during the strike. They articulate the experience with a maturity they may have been unable to express at the time. We explore the research methodology, findings, editing process and contributors' reflections on their participation.
Author(s): Debbie Ballin and Esther Johnson
Keywords: archives; cross-disciplinary research; documentary; exhibition; interviewing process; memory; 1984–1985 Miners' Strike; museums; photography

Oral history in public spaces in Poland: from grassroots beginnings in the 1990s to contemporary historical policy
This article examines the role that oral history projects have played in the so-called 'symbolic transformation', part of the grand process of transformation of the Polish state and society that was initiated in the ground-breaking year of 1989. The author draws attention to the fact that for more than a decade the main social actors in this forum have been state institutions or central cultural organisations, which have been promoting and organising oral history projects. Their methodological approach and their use of oral history has influenced general practice and evoked belief that oral history as public history is one of many ways of practising top-down historical policy.
Author(s): Marta Kurkowska-Budzan
Keywords: public history; public spaces; Poland; historical policy

The Oral History Reader (third edition)
Author(s): Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson (eds)

The Canadian Oral History Reader, Kristina R Llewellyn
Author(s): Alexander Freund and Nolan Reilly (eds)

Captive Memories: Far East POWs and Liverpool School Of Tropical Medicine
Author(s): Meg Parkes and Geoff Gill

Victor Grayson: The Man and the Mystery
Author(s): David Clark

Public History: A Textbook of Practice
Author(s): Thomas Cauvin

Hot Modernism: Queensland Architecture 1945-1975
Author(s): John Macarthur, Deborah van der Plaat, Janina Gosseye and Andrew Wilson (eds)