Review of first Oral History and Heritage workshop

 

On Friday 18 March, the Cultural Heritage Agency in cooperation with the “Sprekende geschiedenis” Hub organised the first workshop on ‘Oral History and Heritage’ in Amersfoort. The workshop provided great examples and valuable insights.

 

Oral history and heritage

A group of about 25 people first received a short presentation by Saskia Moerbeek of the Centre about oral history as a discipline and the relationship between oral history and heritage. The special thing about this relationship is that oral history can not only contribute to a deeper meaning of, for example, material heritage, but that it is also, of course, in itself intangible heritage. And it is also a good way of involving people and groups in heritage. People often like to tell stories about the meaning that objects, buildings, movable property, landscapes and cultural traditions have for them. Based on this, they also like to think about the design of public presentations.

 

The workshop participants were able to name a whole range of examples of heritage projects in which oral history plays a role. Think of different perspectives on the outbreak of swine fever 25 years ago. Or the stories of sisters of a certain monastic order in Limburg. Many great ideas for new projects were also generated. These examples will soon be posted on the Speaking History website as ongoing projects.

 

The art of interviewing

After the break, the topic was the art of interviewing. The essence of an oral history interview is that you get people to talk, that you yourself are mainly a listener and that you pay attention to the life story of the interviewee, because that provides the context from which someone tells their story.  After a brief introduction by Frank von Meijenfeldt of the Hub, the participants went to work in threes to interview each other about a cherished object or building. One of the three acted as observer.

 

Pitfalls of the oral history interview

The discussion afterwards revealed that there are a few pitfalls to an oral history interview. It can happen that you get more caught up in a conversation than in letting the interviewee really tell his or her story. There may also be sensitive subjects that are difficult to deal with neutrally as an interviewer.

 

Continued

All in all, it was an instructive afternoon, which will be continued on 15 April with a programme covering transcribing techniques, metadata and making presentations to the public. We will also zoom in on the question of how to involve interviewees and their communities in presentations.