Undergraduate Modules in Oral History
HIS2219 Dr Sarah Campbell and Dr Matt Perry established a second-year history module in Oral History and Memory which was the precursor to the current Oral History Unit and Collective. In 2019 two of our (then) Research Associates, Dr Andy Clark and Dr Alison Atkinson-Phillips, took over teaching the module, along with HCA colleague and Oral History Collective member Dr Ben Houston. The module introduces students to the theory and practice of oral history, as well as diving into a particular subject theme — in 2019-2020, the theme was history of deindustrialisation in the North East. Students undertake group work to research, conduct and transcribe an oral history interview, present their findings to the class, and are asked to think about what kinds of public history projects could be developed from these interviews. Some of the student interviews recorded in 2019 and in previous years relates to North East shipbuilding, and will be added to our We Made Ships website. The module, which can be audited, is a prerequisite for History students conducting oral history research as part of their final dissertation.
HIS3334 Professor Graham Smith designed and continues to deliver Talking Cures and Troubles: An Oral History of Health and Medicine in Britain, c. 1948 - 2000. The module explores the way health professionals and patients have remembered the history of medicine and health care under the NHS. It also equips students with the skills to identify and evaluate relevant oral history sources, examine them as oral sources and sources of memory, and synthesise with specific and general historiographies of medicine and methods. The module provides the skills necessary for reusing a challenging source and should be of interest to all finalists considering (re)using oral history sources in their final dissertation.
SEL2218 Research Project in English and History. Oral history featured centrally in this research skills module for the joint English—History degree programme. Dr Ben Houston and Dr Rosalind Haslett, SELL’s specialist in dramatic literature, focused on the African American experience in Pittsburgh. Drawing from famed black playwright August Wilson, who rooted most of his plays in his hometown Pittsburgh, and Houston’s oral history archive documenting black lives in Pittsburgh, students wrote original research essays drawing from those varied sources, using both to think about the nature of archives, narratives, and evidence.
Public History MA
Designed by Alison Atkinson-Phillips and Graham Smith, the Public History MA begins its first year from September 2021, offering the opportunity for students to develop the core skills needed to become successful public historians. Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to examine how the past impacts the present, and the role of public historians in shaping public understanding of the past. Importantly, it also encourages students to think globally about history, and provides them with the knowledge required for a future career involving public history.
To do this, the course builds a strong foundation in research methods, and introduces key concepts in global public history, project planning skills, and digital skills. During the second semester, a week-long study school offers the opportunity to meet with industry contacts from the North East and beyond, ensuring students obtain the important experiences of working collaboratively with institutions and communities. Here, students will also develop advanced skills in oral history research and presentation.
A third of the time on this course is dedicated to the design of an original public history project, with support from a practitioner-mentor and academic supervisor.
You can read more about each module of the Public History MA using the links below:
Student placements and miniprojects
We have run a number of student placements and miniprojects from undergraduate to PhD. We normally require these to be funded to support the students.
These have included paid projects with a national trade union to undertake historical research that involved the reuse of oral histories; interviews conducted for a local health charity; miniprojects with heritage partners and community industry companies.
Please contact us if you would like to do something similar.
In 2019, thanks to the university’s Social Justice Fund, Jack Hepwork completed a short-term placement in the Oral History Unit with the Foodbank Histories project.
“Having previously volunteered with Foodbank Histories for eight months with my colleagues Alison Atkinson-Phillips and Silvie Fisch, I arrived with a working knowledge of the project, but those five weeks taught me a lot. I transcribed approximately 500 minutes of interviews, designed copyright and re-use agreements (enabling licensed interview material to contribute to future research), liaised with interviewees, and drafted a report for the Newcastle West End Foodbank trustees including recommendations for the foodbank. I also presented initial findings from the report at a workshop, where interviewees fed back. Over those five weeks, I thrived on working as part of a team – a welcome departure from the potentially isolating nature of doctoral study. I developed valuable communication and organisation skills and gained tremendous experience of the mechanics of a multi-partner project. By nature of the project’s focus, amplifying issues which pervade contemporary Britain, the process was also, by turns, saddening and infuriating.”
Northern Bridge (AHRC) Oral History course (Discontinued)
We no longer offer the Northern Bridge (AHRC) training course nor equivalent training to PhD candidates who do not have members of their supervisory teams with adequate experience in using oral history.