This blog looks at the work done by the UOSH Midlands Hub team at the University of Leicester over the winter of 2020/21. In particular, it draws attention to two outreach projects: a module with Museum Studies students and a reminiscence project with Leicestershire County Council.
Listening in Lockdown
In February we helped to run a module with Museum Studies at the University. The module challenged students to engage the public with sound recordings and was an intense effort from the 45 students who created some marvellous online resources around the theme of ‘Listening in Lockdown’. There are six exhibitions that cover a number of themes from childhood games to the sounds of technology during lockdown. The relaxing sounds of nature are very welcome and, for those of you looking for activities for your kids, a couple of the exhibitions are aimed at children. Have a look and a listen to their work here – https://sites.google.com/view/listeninginlockdown/home
In March we came to the end of our reminiscence project ‘Sounds Familiar’, which has been run in partnership with Leicestershire County Council (LCC) over the past year. The idea of creating audio reminiscence resources from sound archives isn’t new, but we felt we could demonstrate how regional sound archives could create something more relevant to local people than generic national material. The start of lockdown seemed to pose a huge obstacle, but the LCC team delivered the resources online very skilfully, and this turned out to be much more successful than we had anticipated.
You can see, listen to, and use the Sounds Familiar resources, which are intended to be used by carers with people who have dementia or memory issues and are online here – https://www.cultureleicestershire.co.uk/projects/unlocking-sounds/
An offshoot of this, ‘Simply Sounds’, invited members of the public create two-minute soundscapes using their mobile phones. These can be seen and listened to here – https://www.cultureleicestershire.co.uk/projects/simply-sounds/
This is an example of one of the Simply Sounds recordings.
As well as being useful for carers, these resources also act as excellent conversation-starters for any history or heritage related event! Both the projects described above demonstrate how adaptable sound recordings can be. Whether used in conjunction with photographs, objects, or just as stand alone sound, the projects show imagination and creativity, and have resulted in some very useful and enjoyable material.
We have taken in what will be our final collections of the project. These are from Walsall Leather Museum, Derby City Libraries, Keele University and Staffordshire Archives. Our engineer, Richard, has recently digitised collections from Forge Needle Museum in Redditch, the University of Nottingham, and historian Carl Chinn’s collection of oral histories of working class life in Birmingham. We want to make some of our material available to listen to on the British Library website and our Rights Clearance Officer, Mandeep, is working on getting permissions for oral histories from Worcestershire (about WW2), Nottingham and Coventry to go online. Our cataloguers Megan and Sarah have been working through all these collections and more, and we are delighted to welcome our other cataloguer, Ruth, back from maternity leave. We are also grateful to our volunteers for helping write summaries.
Highlights from the recent collections include, from the Nottingham City Libraries collections, memories from before WW1, domestic routines in the 1930s, fighting in the Spanish Civil War, and an account of an infamous mutiny in the British Navy at Invergordon in 1931.
The recordings from the Worcestershire WW2 collection contain some remarkable memories of both the home front (not just in Worcestershire) and military service. For example, one interviewee recalls his escape from a POW camp in Leipzig, Germany, and giving his fellow escapee a “rabbit” to make a stew only to tell him years later it was actually a cat. Here, Mr Ferris remembers a visit to Coventry: ‘We actually went up to Coventry to see my uncle and aunt up there who, fortunately, had survived the bombing. And we did go to the Cathedral, and they hadn’t even swept the rubble up, I mean, the rubble was as it had fallen. My cousin was with me and we walked up what was the centre aisle and there was just two long parts of rubble each side, which was the arcades, and the clerestory of the church, which had collapsed… and we actually found pieces of molten lead amongst the stones, and we found the mangled remains of the eagle lectern and my cousin picked up these bits and said, “Look, here is the lectern”. They had already got the child cross up on the altar and my Mother was very upset because it was her home town and it obviously had a sentimental attraction for her.’