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Boned out!

Uitgebeend! Vlaamse beenhouwers in Brussel na W.O. II

Philippe Braem en Mariet Calsius (red.)

AMVR, 2005

In researching the butchers’ craft in Brussels, the Archives and Museum of Flemish Life, through the research method of oral history, worked in three phases.
During the preparatory phase, a researcher not only familiarised himself with the world of the butchers’ craft, but also drew up questionnaires and sought out respondents. Mastering the specific terminology, consulting literature, visiting butchers’ workshops, abattoirs and museums with extensive butchers’ collections were the first steps towards an empathy with this distinct world.
Knowledge and interest of the interviewer in the butchers’ life in Brussels increased. Later this to be an essential condition for trust between interviewer and respondent.
The second phase, the search for respondents, required greater effort. Bone butchers at rest after all, often move, sometimes within Brussels, but mostly away from Brussels back to their native region. A first starting point in compiling a good respondent list, was a list of some active butchers with names and addresses of former colleagues. Another lead was the membership list of the Brussels Confederation of Butchers and the membership list of the Belgian Landsbond van Beenhouwers en Spekslagers (as far as Brussels was concerned).

Calls through the AMVB membership magazine and in local newspapers, drew quite a few responses.
For representativeness, the project took into account the geographical demarcation of the Brussels
capital region and the categories in the butchery sector (bacon butchers, butchers, horse butchers, triperies, poultry vendors). Especially for Brussels, the difference between the immigrants and natives was included.
From the list of possible respondents, the AMVB made a selection. In the end, 46 middlemen (bakers, grocers and 33 butchers) were interviewed. The invitation included an information sheet and the request for a possible company archive. The AMVB always scheduled the interviews at the informant’s home.
Photos (e.g. of family, interiors and showcases), recall certain events together, capitalising on occupational pride or confronting them with facts, were techniques that stimulated the memory of the respondents’ memories. Based on the questionnaire, the unique biographical story of each witness was recorded.

The executive or third phase consisted of two parts. The archival disclosure by transcribing, coding and making the interviews available through the sound archives overview on the one hand.
The public-facing disclosure on the other. A study day on oral history communicated to the archives sector, while the general public was introduced to this form of history in the exhibition Boned Out!