Oral historians

Kingscott, Judith (10 of 12).  Oral History of Oral History

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  • Recording date

    2010-03-15, 2010-04-19, 2010-05-17, 2010-06-21, 2010-07-26, 2010-09-13

  • Interviewees

    Kingscott, Judith, 1939- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Wilkinson, Robert (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 10: [Session five: 26 July 2010] The local studies role meant working with local history societies. Was involved in other oral history projects and the oral history society later on. Used local history librarians in the smaller branches. The central library had an oversight of all the local studies centres in the county. Local studies was spread out like a reverse pyramid, the branch libraries had a set amount of stock. It was up to individual staff to carry the project forward. It was variable, perhaps a part of their duties. Later on they cut back and local studies allocation was reduced. In the 1980s there was a system of local history. Usually a library assistant would deal with inquiries as there was a shortage of professional staff. Certain books in the smallest libraries got certain set books. Local studies was only in Nottinghamshire, stopped dead at the county boundary. [05:02] Colleagues and herself would go out to the larger local studies centres, Newark, Worksop, Mansfield, and talk to the people responsible for the local studies stock. There was a special local studies photographer librarian. The areas would be broken down and allocated staff would take it out to the branches.[06:23] Mansfield for example had a local studies librarian; they had responsibility for taking in local material. If a new book was published locally they would put it into the system, they would also collect local newspapers and scan them every evening. The cuttings librarian would put cuttings into a brown envelope system. They would have to judge what was relevant now and in the future, anything of regional or national significance. Bigger branches would have responsibility for doing this too. Perhaps they didnt do it as thoroughly. Photographs were collected locally as well as centrally, some branches got more than others though. Not much was collected in the branch libraries for oral history. [11:02] Essentially had the unique role within local studies of collecting and cataloguing oral history. Had a couple of assistants who helped with copying and transcribing. Felt she was part of a team but it took a while. The job had been advertised without qualifications attached, there was some hostility to this especially from the clerical staff. Was made aware of a special grant application to pay for her and the assistants which lasted only two years. Was sent on the librarians training course which helped orientate her to the system. It lasted a year, 12 sessions and was a good course. [15:30] The Head of Libraries got interested in a project, it seemed huge £250,000. It was all organised at a higher level, boss was involved in the committee. Helped write all the paperwork but boss took it to committee. The committee was responsible for distributing the money, describes the system. The value to each participant was about £3,000; this was all spent on buying equipment; Uher tape recorders and microphones. One or two did video; the value of the training was included. They had access to computers. It all had to have an oral history element, and had to be original work. One old lady wanted to produce a book of photographs, another group of 5 looked at a coal mine that was closing. Not every project was live oral history but paraphrased interviews. It was good, some had never done oral history and none had recorded. The end results were good, produced an exhibition. The people on the project learned a lot. Didnt have many dropouts, one or two didnt keep it up. One man investigated the Gay Switchboard and produced a book. [22:57] The interest of the chief officer was vital. The money was supplied by HLF, in the late 90s. the countys contribution was looked upon by using county staff, the HLF people treated it as a jolly. All the end results and recordings went directly to the archives office, which had always refused to have anything to do with oral history. The projects were mainly village based. Didnt get to handle stuff directly as some went straight to archives. The end results seemed to be quite good, the majority did a booklet. The Uhers were cassettes, one or two did compilation cassettes. Most didnt have much notion of using oral history as speech. One or two produced videos, some digital. The archivist kept all the work. Describes her role. The archivist was not involved until the end of the three years. The recordings should still be around. A new archives office had been built. [31:37] This took up the majority of her time; these projects would probably not have come through otherwise. It caught peoples imagination that they could do this. Lots of people werent involved in things at all, at the end of the three years Judy suggested they set up a network to keep in touch and promote further work. Her line manager said no, they didnt have the time or the money, an opportunity lost. Its a big county and a disparate group so it may have died a death anyway but a newsletter and regular meetings wouldnt have cost much. She had helped promote the idea in the first place, was very keen and spoke on Womans Hour about it. By this time she had maybe foreseen cuts. After the project finished the old system resumed. The BBC stuff came through and there was more day to day stuff to occupy time with. Still visited local history meetings but this was in own time in the evenings. One or two villages set up own projects. When the big project finished the old equipment was deteriorating. Was already loaning equipment on the condition they got a copy of the recordings. [38:58] In the next decade, 2000s, cuts had started to come in. they werent too bad in the library, when the system first changed was on a two year contract. Was doing a three year part time training course at Loughborough, in the last stages of that the committee reviewed the funding and hours went up from 25 to 28. They cut the clerical hours. The hours were cut and both were turned into library assistants. [43:26] There was more consistency, the work reverted to before the grant. There was more interest while the project was on but it didnt maintain afterwards. One or two projects did follow on, interest in general was rising at this time. Awards for All by HLF was funding various projects. The Leicester project was good, Cynthia Brown stimulated lots of work but didnt get a follow up grant.[46:00] Going up to 2005, saw less. The two at Radcliffe have carried on doing it, they used computers. They put on a project where they re-enacted the life of the village in a church. The Sawley Society copied the idea last year (2009) locally, it was a lot of work and people werent really interested. Had no actors, people loved it. Has just got the DVD, its tremendous. The video people helped with effects in the post edit. [49:19] Used digital recorders on the HLF project; Minidisc recorders and video cameras. One man was an evacuee, he had big hands and couldnt press the tiny buttons. For the local society got two Awards for All and bought laptops and minidiscs to research own village. Later did a project for the home front and used minidiscs. Transferred some minidisc recordings to cassettes. Still uses minidiscs in the Society. Was still loaning out the minidisc recorders from the library when retired. Cassettes were still in use for the general public, not many had minidiscs. [55:37] there were restructurings in the library service coming in, they were getting rid of heads of department and relying on experienced staff. The head of department had to reapply for jobs and they ended up with the arts librarian, he knew nothing about oral history and couldnt properly represent them at meetings. He did do a course and set up a project to interview the Italian community, this went through another channel though, not Local Studies. This was done in the last 5-6 years. Describes what happened after she retired. [1:03:02] At 60, chose not to retire as was enjoying the work. Was working from 8.45am-7pm with a half hour lunch break, this was to squeeze everything into three days. A recent survey led them to close the building on a Friday, hours had to be made up on other days. The benefits office, now based there, means they have to open on a Friday again. They opened on a Saturday too to make up the hours. [1:05:32] At 65 decided it was changing and then got a letter informing her you will be finishing. It was a relief to retire. Had a big do, one of the other librarians decided to move back to Newcastle. They finished on the same day and had a big party. Has lots of plans lined up to do, spends more time on the local history society, has become secretary, this takes up a lot of time.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Judith Kingscott, former oral history lead at Nottinghamshire Libraries.

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