The East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA) and The University of Leicester Special Collections have launched a new project, ‘Sounds for the Future’. The project is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and will run from May 2022 to October 2023 with the objective of preserving, cataloguing and using EMOHA’s existing oral history collections.
As part of Sounds for the Future, we have digitised a collection of sound recordings from the Record Office for Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland. Many of these recordings were created by Leicester City Museums, one of the oldest municipal museums services, founded in 1849. In this blog, Philip R. French, a volunteer with Sounds for the Future, looks at some of the highlights from the collection.
These recordings were made between the 1950s and 1980s. Most were recorded by Museum staff, with a few from BBC Midlands television and Radio Leicester. During the 1950s, and especially the 1960s and early 1970s, the Museums Service expanded, so there are recordings of several museum openings such as the Train Museum, the Magazine and the Museum of Technology. There are also recordings detailing the work of museum departments such as Archives and the museum taxidermist.
The Museums service was run by the City Council until the 1974 Local Government Act came into effect, but even in the earliest period it collected material from the county as well as the city. Many of the ‘outreach’ recordings were made by the Keeper of Antiquities, J.A., or John, Daniel, who worked from 1946-1980. The job titles of the time reflect the outlook of museum professionals, so Antiquities perhaps reflects the priorities given to artefacts rather than people. There was also an interest in ‘folkways’ and trades that were disappearing, such as that of the farrier, and reminiscences of Leicester residents of areas facing change or redevelopment.
Amongst the most prominent local politicians featured is Charles Keene who performed the opening ceremony at Newarke Houses Museum and was the recipient of the freedom of the city (also recorded). For many years a well established Leicester college bore his name.
Sounds for the Future is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Thank you to National Lottery Players for making this work possible.