How to preserve your family or community archive: the Collection Care Covid-19 lockdown blogs:   Blog OH #1

Do you remember when….?

  • Short of conversation when phoning elderly relatives in lockdown?
  • Want to capture family stories for future generations?
  • Know someone who witnessed significant local events?

One activity that households self-isolating together could do together is to chat to each other about their memories.  Our memories are unique.  Even if a group of us have witnessed the same event, all of us will remember it in a different way.  Sharing memories across generations is a particularly powerful way of both inspiring younger people, and confirming to the elderly that their lives have value and are important.

Dr Ollie Taylor recording the memories of Brian Mince, photographer for Fielding & Platt, 1952-74

Over the past decade Gloucestershire Archives, and more recently the Heritage Hub, has been involved in a number of community projects which have included a significant element of recording and making available people’s memories.  We’re proud of the online resources that have been created as a result.  Each of the sites listed below contains the memories of many people who happily gave time to share their experiences with others.  You may already be familiar with the contents of these sites, but if not, check them out and have a listen:

Gloucester Rugby Heritage – https://www.gloucesterrugbyheritage.org.uk/

Barton & Tredworth Community Heritage – https://www.bartonandtredworth.org.uk/

Fielding & Platt History – https://www.fieldingandplatthistory.org.uk/

Gloucestershire Police history – https://gloucestershirepolicearchives.org.uk/

Dowty Heritage – https://www.dowtyheritage.org.uk/

All these sites are still collecting material, and we’d be pleased to hear from you if you have memories to share.  Written memories are fine if you’d rather not have them recorded.

Returning to the first thought in this blog, why not share your memories with each other while you have the time and opportunity to do so?  You might be surprised at what you learn about people you think you know.

If you’re not sure how to go about it, the Heritage Hub has created some information sheets that take you through the process, from planning what you’re going to ask, preparing for and carrying out the chat, and giving some thoughts about how you can preserve the recordings you make and go about making them available to others (if you wished to do so!).  There’s also advice about data protection and copyright if you do agree to publish the recording.

Of course, there’s no reason why you should record the chat; you could just talk to each other face to face.  If you do that though, you may miss an opportunity that you’ll regret in later life.

My Grandfather, William Edward Morris, was a farmer who grew up in North Herefordshire in the 1920s, and used to tell wonderful stories of his early life, up until and including his adventures as a member of the Home Guard during World War 2.  As a farmer he was in a reserved occupation, but had a motor bike which was useful for passing on communications, and he told stories very reminiscent of Dad’s Army about the training manoeuvers that took place between the Home Guard and the regular army at that time.  The thought of those tales makes me smile, but details are hazy now, and I wish I’d had the means of recording them while he was still alive.

It’s up to you and the person you’re chatting to though….  If they’re helpful to you, you can find the help sheets at https://www.heritagehub.org.uk/oral-reminiscence-help-sheets/. And don’t forget, the Hub is always happy to accept copies of reminiscence recordings for permanent preservation!

In a future blog, we’ll look at how you can give your recordings (and other digital records) the best chance of surviving down the generations.   

Good luck and enjoy chatting!

Based on Gloucestershire Archives Heritage Hub Collection Care training developed by Paul Evans, Archivist

At Gloucestershire Archives, through our National Lottery Heritage funded “For The Record” project, we will support people to: “document, care for, interpret and celebrate their personal and shared history”.

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