Sunday, 30 September 2007

Learning about oral history

For my sins I am the programme secretary for our local history group. Now most speakers come and talk to slides but last evening's talk, the first of the autumn session, was somewhat different. This was a talk interspersed with sound clips.

Our speaker, Lorna Baker, moved into my village earlier this year and I was interested to find out that not only did she have a business recording people's reminiscences but that she was happy to talk to our group about the subject. I'm pleased to say that there are more and more local history groups, archives and museums around these days and people are waking up to the importance of oral history. In fact our own Calstock Parish Archive has a number of tapes of local people some of which have now been transcribed. Although useful these recordings were done some years ago and it has to be said if done today the quality would be much improved.

In her talk Lorna recalled her career as a BBC researcher and producer. She had been involved in such programmes as 'Any Questions' (still going strong) and 'Down Your Way' which was a gem of a programme whereby the team would visit a particular town say and talk to some of the interesting inhabitants. Unless I'm getting confused the interviewee having said his or her piece then was able to choose a piece of music to listen to.

Until now I had really thought of sound recordings as a tool in exploring local history but Lorna explained the aspect she was particularly interested in. Her angle in this intriguing subject is to create CDs of personal reminiscences of people's lives primarily for the benefit of their immediate family and for them in turn to hand on to future generations.

As I stated earlier Lorna entertained us with clips of some of her earlier recordings. She explained that she had written permission from these particular people so of course if you didn't want your personal recollections in the public domain then they won't be.

If you wish to share some of these permitted extracts then it's worth visiting her website here. Incidentally I think her website is one of the most user friendly ones that I've seen but if you are desperate to see flashing lights, shooting stars and other gizmos then you had better pass it by.

Thank you Lorna for a fascinating and eye opening (or should that be ear opening?) talk.

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