Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Oral History Society Conference 2009

Jim and Anne attended the Oral History Society Conference at Strathclyde University through in Glasgow on 3 and 4 July, 2009

We heard about other oral history work in Scotland, England, Canada and the US; met lots of interesting people; and gave a presentation on Oor Mad History. This was met with a great deal of interest - lots of good questions after the presentation and lots of interesting comments over tea.

It was great to be there as oral historians first and foremost, as we are used to doing presentations to people involved in various ways with mental health. It gave a different perspective on our work, and we could make connections with what other people were doing elsewhere and with different groups of people.

Issues which seemed particularly relevant to Oor Mad History were:
  • the importance of the spoken voice and that we must not allow the transcript to lose our sense of that importanc;
  • what do we do with the recordings we make? Do they simply gather dust in the archives?
  • how researchers/interviewers being 'insiders' or 'outsiders' affect the research;
  • who and what do we exclude - we cannot interview everyone but we have to be aware of whose voices are silenced or ignored - and how do we deal with them;
  • linked to this, the desire to 'celebrate' history can gloss over conflicts - how do we deal with this?
  • 'shared authority', which seems to mean that the researcher and the researched, the interviewer and the interview should be equal;
  • how people interpret their experiences of discrimination, denying they ever experienced it or downplaying it, despite describing experiences which are seen by others as discrimination.
In conclusion: it was a really interesting and enjoyable two days where we learnt a lot and reflected a lot on what oral history is about and on Oor Mad History in particular.

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