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4.6 Training for Volunteers

 

As discussed in 2.7.6, it was envisaged in the original project design that conventional trainings for volunteers would take place largely during Archive "Weekends". In theory, the first day of each community's first Archive "Weekend" would be taken up by an omnibus set of archive, oral history, website and Data Protection trainings, conducted by project team members. These would be supplemented by one-day specialist trainings conducted by external expert trainers. The experience of trying to fit all of the omnibus trainings into the first day of a "Weekend" proved inefficient, exhausting and ineffective, and this was especially the case when an external training was planned for the same "Weekend". Trialled during the five-day first Wennington "Weekend", adjustments were quickly made, and attempts at large scale omnibus trainings were set aside after the third Archive "Weekend".

 

Once freed from the omnibus model, archive, Data Protection and digitisation trainings were incorporated into the hands-on work with individuals and small groups, when concrete material was available for participants to engage with and talk about. The typical training by the project archivist encompassed a tour of the archive and associated requirements for managing an archive, as well as a one-to-one Archive Training concerning bringing collections to the awareness of local Record Offices, and an understanding of the requirements, and the costs of conserving and cataloguing a collection. Where appropriate, formal group trainings continued within Archive "Weekends". Project archivist Frances Meredith conducted a highly successful, kinetically-engaged introductory training on archives with the members of the Caldecott Community, during their second Archive "Weekend" in May 2011, elements of which were successfully used during the following week with participants in the Wennington Archive Week.

 

Oral history trainings typically required a full day, which included a discussion of the project's particular approach and procedures; an introduction to interviewing techniques and the legal, ethical and practical issues of oral history in general, with special reference to the heritage focused on by the project; an opportunity to handle equipment; and a chance to record an interview and to receive feedback. Oral history refreshers and tutorials took place as and when needed.

 

In November 2010, the one day oral history training was linked to the Oral History ATA Event for a two-day training. The first day, November 4th, was a formal training as such, with the elements described above. Participant Dr. Tom Harrison wrote afterwards: "Fantastic day, enjoyed myself no end...What a lot of really interesting and wonderful people to have brought together." As a continuation of their training, three of the participants who intended to go on to record interviews for the project as volunteers stayed overnight onsite and took a full part in the intensive Assessment, Training and Advisory Event on November 5th, discussed in 4.2.2 above. The project director and oral historian also conducted a special oral history training with Trinity Catholic School performance students, as discussed below.

 

As the project progressed, an increasing number of individual trainings with project staff took place outside Archive "Weekends". Wenningtonian Pat Mitchell spent a long weekend, for example, working on transcription and website skills on the Friday, and on cataloguing and database skills on the following Monday. Fellow Wenningtonian Tom James spent more than one day at the Archive building up website skills, and on one occasion mastered the website's photo gallery facility and successfully uploaded 250 photographs by the end of the day. Volunteer Jo Williams had separate oral history summarising and transcription sessions, and a tutorial on the database. Volunteer Maggie Campbell had oral history tutorials with project oral historian Gemma Geldart.

 

Volunteers also took part in ATA Events, as an integral part of the project design.

 

4.6.1 Oral history training at Trinity Catholic School, February 16, 2011

In preparation for the Performance Archive "Weekend" in March, project director Craig Fees and project oral historian Gemma Geldart conducted a formal one-day oral history training with 18 Trinity Catholic School students at the school, based on the standard training model, and moving across the school as rooms became available. More practical training was given to two students in particular during the Performance Archive "Weekend" of March 5-6.

 

Asked on their feedback forms how they got involved in the training, the students uniformly cited "Other People's Children"; and asked 'Why', wrote of acquiring new skills, meeting people, learning more about the project, contributing to the project:

    • "I wanted to learn more about the interview process"
    • "I wanted to learn more about the oral history aspect of the project"
    • "it sounded like a good opportunity to help and get to know people"
    • "The concept interested me, and the chance to gain skills that could be useful appealed to me"

 

Asked 'What did you get out of this event? Do you feel you achieved anything?' most of the students replied as if the question was 'What did you want from this event?' Were their expectations met?:

 

What did you get out of this event? Do you feel you achieved anything?

Were your expectations met?

To develop and learn new skills linked with oral history which I could then use in my work for 'OPC'

Yes

I wanted to understand exactly what oral history is, why it is effective and how it can help people

They were, I feel I know everything I wanted to find out

 

I wanted to learn about how interviews are conducted when used in oral history, and to understand the uses of oral history

 

I now know everything I needed to know.

 

I wanted to learn about interview techniques and develop speaking and listening skills

 

Deffinately

 

I wanted to become comfortable in an interview environment

 

Yes, and more

 

Wanted to understand interview techniques and scenarios during interviews

 

Yes

I wanted to be able to learn more about how to incorporate oral history into our ultimate project

 

Yes

I wanted to get skills in how to interview people

 

Yes

To learn about interviewing techniques

 

Yes

I wanted to become better at interview techniques

 

Yes

I wanted to learn how best to conduct/be interviewed.

 

Yes

 

As part of the formal training, after sessions on the history of oral history, theory, law, ethics, equipment and practice, the students were placed into groups of three for actual recording, with the recordings intended to go into the project collections, and with each student ideally taking a turn at interviewing, being interviewed, and being an active observer who then fed observations back into the mix. In reality, there wasn't time for each student to take each role, and feedback asked that more practical time be built into training days. One student suggested a two-day training was needed "to really develop skills further". Seventeen recordings were made, which form part of the project collections.

 

4.6.2 Digital Story Trainings

Digital stories combine audio, video, images, documents, and text in short – generally three to five minute – personal narrative films, generally prepared for the Internet. They are immensely versatile and accessible, and have the capacity of poetry to convey and evoke elusive and powerful understandings and emotions; or to capture an historical moment or idea; or simply a story someone wants to tell. They can carry a considerable punch, and proved an effective medium for training, exploration, and telling the memory.

 

There were three digital story trainings, each during an Archive “Weekend”: Wennington on May 17 and 19, 2010; Bodenham on April 4 and 6, 2011; and Caldecott on August 2, 2011. The trainer was Chris Bradley, a documentary film maker as well as an experienced audio, video, oral history trainer. During his first visit he christened the project's new Mac computer, purchased to work with digital media, and tested the project's various systems of digital image storage and retrieval. The Wenningtonians chose to do a group digital story, approaching it with the intense discussion and debate which characterise the minutes of the Wennington School Senate Minute Book. Subsumed within the Archive “Weekend”, numerous participants noted in their feedback forms that they had worked on digital stories, but only two responses reflect what they felt about the training. One of these was a Wenningtonian who, in response to 'What did you get out of this event? Do you feel you achieved anything?' recorded the sense of accomplishment which creating the digital story generated: “A feeling of achievement first with the Architect and play ladies [referring to the ATA Event – see 4.2.1] and also with the completion of the digital film.”

 

Chris Bradley wrote after the Wennington training:

 

"I had a truly inspirational time with the group and I was really pleased that in the end, they had managed to come together to produce a film which I believe, gave them the confidence and insight to take things further. With a little more time (or a little less deliberating), the group could have got a lot more hands-on with the editing and refinement process." "I think it needs to be said that I found them to be truly inspirational people with equally inspirational stories to tell. Over the 2-day workshop the group demonstrated a real creative curiosity and a desire to use technology and conventions of film unfamiliar to them in ways I have rarely seen before. I believe that the production of further digital stories from this group would yield a fantastic, informative, memorable and valuable addition to the P.E.T.T. archive."

 

After Bodenham he wrote:

 

I found the time I have spent at PETT this time to have been a very moving and emotional experience. I felt as though it was really important for me to have experienced the significant difference that exists between the memories of the Bodenham community and that of Wennington and the shades of grey that lie in between! My experiences this week will undoubtedly help to inform the way I approach similar work in the future.

 

And more briefly following Caldecott, during which seven digital stories were assembled, two completely and uploaded, and five more completed over subsequent weeks:

 

I believe the short films I have worked on with PETT, including those just completed, show that there is enormous potential, not least of all because there are some amazing stories to be told!

 

The other critical reflection came from this "Weekend", listing 'highlights' in the feedback form:

1) Oral history recording with Gemma. (Fab) / 2) Digital Story with Chris. (Fab) / Generally watching photos being scanned and listening to many stories and memories from my family Caldecott boys and girls

 

4.6.3 Transcript to Script Trainings

During the Performance Archive "Weekend" (4.1.7) oral historian, playwright and trainer Rib Davis conducted two one-day trainings with those Trinity Catholic School students who were focused on turning the transcripts generated by the project into scripts for the performance. Although the number of interviews transcribed, with completed copyright forms, and "open" was still relatively low at that stage in the project, he reported that "The students were tremendously positive about the project, were genuinely involved through meeting the community members and hearing some of their stories, and were imaginative in their ideas."

 

Only one of the students who had taken the training filled in a feedback form. Asked 'What did you get out of this event? Do you feel you achieved anything?' he or she responded, with logical enthusiasm, "A better understanding of scripting transcripts!"