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Oral history at the University of Leicester

As announced recently, we will be hosting the CILIP Local Studies conference on July 9, which will be themed around oral history and sound collections. We choose oral history thanks to the University's, and the region's, strengths in this area.

East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA)

Based in the Centre for Urban History, East Midlands Oral History Archive is one of the largest regional collections of its kind. It was originally funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to establish an archive of oral history recordings for Leicestershire & Rutland. It includes the collections of the Leicester Oral History Archive, the Mantle archive from North West Leicestershire, the Community History archive of Leicester City Libraries, the Market Harborough Museum collection, and the sound archive of BBC Radio Leicester, along with smaller collections donated by local organisations or individuals.

Following a major digitisation project, the Library's Special Collections Online provides public access to 447 recordings produced during the 1980s. Memories stretch as far back as the Boer war. Major themes include: Childhood, the Hosiery industry, the Second World War and migration.

The original recordings of EMOHA are deposited in the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland. The EMOHA website has an online catalogue and a range of online resources. EMOHA actively collects new histories and provides advice and training for community groups, museums, heritage organisations and students. 

Current and recent research 

Leicester academics and research students actively collect and use oral history in their work. Recent topics include: memory of the Second World War and Holocaust, the Eritrean community in Milanfamilies and consumer culture, and Palestinian refugees from Syria. Other examples:
  • The Manufacturing Pasts and Affective Digital Histories projects collected oral histories and sound recording as part of their research. These can be accessed via Special Collections Online
  • As part of his research into the development of Asian radio in Britain, PhD student Liam McCarthy has been seeking out recordings of the Six O'Clock Show, the first regular Asian radio program in this country. Liam has been also been collecting memories from listeners and has organised an exhibition at Radio Leicester later this month.. 
The future 

From 2018, the University Library will be a regional centre of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. 
We will be working to preserve rare and unique recordings that are threatened by physical degradation or stored on formats that can no longer be played. Find out more about the project at the conference in July.

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