Oral History Training Programme
The course provided an opportunity to work alongside others in a milieu influenced by post conflict issues and created opportunities for social enquiry projects to be undertaken on a cross-community basis. It was our intention to transfer skills to help people to collect and conserve their own stories of conflict and peace at various levels and over the last fifty or so years. The modules were sensitive to current social concerns and are intended to support positive inter-community relations.
The training was a tremendous success and we were really heartened and encouraged by the positive feedback from participants. The first oral history training session took place in London in April 10-13. Twenty-seven of the forty-five participants undertook four days of specialist training at Queen Mary, University of London.
Training was provided by Eastside Community Heritage, Eastside have worked on numerous projects documenting the lives of 'ordinary' people from East London. Training sessions included conducting interviews in socially sensitive settings and the ethical and moral obligations of oral history work.
Field trips were organised to develop the theme of London in conflict and included a guided visit to the Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum and a series of presentations at Toynbee Hall, a world-renowned pioneer in the identification and resolution of community stresses and conflicts.
Participants spoke about their experience of the training in London:
"The London trip opened my eyes to the communities in London which are dealing with similar social problems to us such as religion and poverty."
"London demonstrated the potential oral history has in offering hope and a way of reaching out to others and breaking down communal barriers."
"I have new found skills which will benefit my organisation and community. The programme has showed me how to listen and how to ask the real questions to preserve our history for future generations."
"I am interested in oral history as it is rich in detail and emotion. As a history and English student I think the oral history training programme will benefit me with future history projects, capturing people's memories and experiences of key events in history. Oral History brings a period of history to life in a way that no book could, which is very powerful."
The second part of the course was held at Altnaveigh House in Newry, May 1- 4. This session focused on the practicalities of recording, transcribing and archiving interviews as well as demonstrating how historians, academics and community groups practice and use oral history.
Participants provided feedback after the second part of the course:
"The training has been a learning curve demonstrating the variety of ways one can use oral history."
"Oral history is a more interesting source for students, academics and communities."
"Oral history provides an opportunity to document the lives of ordinary people at grassroots level. It gives a voice to those who can be overlooked in history such as women."
In September 2012 we concluded our three-part oral history training programme at Dundalk Institute of Technology. During the course participants covered video interviewing, the ethical and legal requirements of oral history work and how to conduct socially and politically sensitive Interviews. Participants independently conducted an oral history interview as part of their fieldwork over the summer break.
The training was a success and the project received positive feedback:
‘The work undertaken by the layers of meaning project is incredibly important especially the production of the oral history training template for local communities and academics wanting to undertake an oral history training project.
Helping individuals and communities tell their story is vital, especially in the context of Northern Ireland .The project provides a useful template for moving forward.’
We believe that the skills acquired in the course of this work are highly transferable and that they can be adapted to suit a wide range of disciplines, modes of social investigation and vocational activity. It equips community leaders and students, interested or already involved in oral history projects, with the necessary skills and self-confidence to engage with the past in a professional and ethical manner.
We are in the process of developing an oral history training manual.The training manual which is currently in draft form (including interview integrity procedures, processing and storing, styles and techniques, as well as all relevant technical matters) sets out all necessary legal, ethical and professional standards, and demonstrates how they may be embodied in practical work. In addressing both theory and practice, our tailor-made manual will illuminate the particular challenges and almost incalculable sensitivities of conducting research interviews in delicately balanced and tightly drawn communities.