Taking a break from writing my chapter and thanks to an article on BBC Online, earlier today I came across a video weblog by 79 year old Peter Oakley from good old Leicester who, going by the name 'geriatric1927', regularly uploads videos of himself reminiscing about his life, to the video-sharing website 'You Tube'.
At Viv's research seminar today she mentioned something that Cynthia Brown had talked about at the Oral History training a few weeks ago: how when George Ewart Evans was doing his pioneering work with agricultural workers, he would be quite stern with his subjects if they went 'off-topic'. What strikes me about Peter Oakley's weblog (which is well worth a look, if you get a chance) is that it is essentially unmediated. He gets to talk about what he wants, to remember what he wants, to present the viewpoint or perspective that he wants. Oral history is something which is often talked about in relation to democratising history, but, of course, as the tale about Evans reminds us, there's usually somebody 'pulling the strings' in the background, i.e. the person choosing the subject, the questions they ask, the editing process, the interpretative slant they put on the result, the way the recording or transcript is then used. You Tube, seems to me, especially where the output is controlled entirely by the subject - as is the case with 'geriatric1927' - is the ulimate in oral history. At the very least it's the natural successor, perhaps even the death knell, to the oral historian armed with a digital recorder and a notebook of questions. Which begs the question, who's going to collect and preserve online recordings for posterity? Will Peter Oakley's efforts be for nothing, if ultimately his remembrances are forgotten? Is the pace of technology leaving museums and archives behind? perhaps some of the Digital Heritage people in the Department would like to comment?!
The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.