Video, Oral History, Memory Map

Oral History interests me.  I am intrigued by the richness of the stories that people tell about the past and by how these stories help us to develop a fuller and more complex understanding of our history.  Oral Histories are particularly important when we are exploring hidden histories and marginalised communities.  They help to reveal the history that might otherwise remain invisible.oralhistory

My interest in oral history, and in the history of the lesbian and gay communities in Cork, has recently been reawakened.  When I carried out oral history interviews in the past I used a tape recorder and then transcribed the interviews – a slow and laborious task.   Technology has advanced significantly since then and I realised I needed to up skill to do this work more effectively.

One of the challenges I have set for myself in this course is to learn how to capture, edit and disseminate digital video.  How to make films I suppose.  To this end all my optional modules are related to this goal – Film Studies seminar, CS Video course and the CS Digital Video project.  Video-services-ugabox-media-ug

I am exploring using video to capture oral histories.  Video has many advantages – it provides a richer version of an interview, and interviewee, than audio alone and it is much more interesting and engaging for the viewer.  There are of course also potential drawbacks as some people may be more reluctant to be filmed than to be taped.

I have been collaborating with Annmarie McIntyre in further exploring video capture of oral histories.

In the Cork Folklore Project where Annmarie works one of the previous staff members developed a memory map.  Still images, audio and text have been placed on a map of Cork, telling stories about the past in Cork.  http://www.ucc.ie/research/memorymap

unnamedWhile the Memory Map provides a very interesting way to engage with stories about Cork, there are a number of challenges that the Folklore project is trying to address.  The Memory Map website was created using HTML5 and CSS3 along with MySQL and scripting languages, PHP, Javascript and Jquery.  It is thus not easy to add new information to the website and to make changes.  It is also not possible to add video material to the site.

Annmarie is exploring the possibility of developing a new Memory Map using Neatline.  The aim is to develop a site to which video material can be easily uploaded and one that is easy for staff to use and update.

We have been exploring Neatline together and looking at how to embed video material in it.  Neatline http://neatline.org is a suite of add-on tools for Omeka http://omeka.org which allows one to tell stories with maps and timelines. 

As part of this process we have been capturing video material which can be then uploaded on Neatline.  We set up an interview with Pat Speight, a fabulous story teller with a rich array of tales about growing up in Cork and the games he played with his friends in the Bell’s field at the top of Richmond Hill in Cork.

With some difficulty we managed to locate a camera we could use for the film shoot.  It was a Panasonic AG-HMC4IE which was loaned to us by a previous staff member of the Folklore Project.  camera

We planned to shoot the interview on the afternoon of Friday 13 December.  During the day the weather was clear and bright – perfect for filming we thought.  However, just as we were set up for filming, it began to rain!  So our essential equipment for the shoot included the camera, tripod and a very large golf umbrella to be held over the camera during filming!  We also used a Zoom Handy Recorder H2 to record the sound.

We arrived at the location 30 minutes prior to our arranged meeting with Pat Speight.  In between showers we set up the camera and tripod and agreed how the shots would be framed.  We adjusted the focus and set the white balance using a white card.

For the interview I operated the camera and Annmarie asked the interview questions and operated the sound recorder.  Pat is a fabulous story teller and we captured some really interesting and engaging footage but unfortunately we had to cut the shoot short as the rain was becoming heavier and we were concerned that the camera would be damaged.

The footage was backed up and edited by Annmarie using Final Cut Pro 7.  The edited clips will be included as part of the new Memory Map when it is developed.

The experience of filming Pat Speight was a very useful learning experience.  However I realised that I didn’t know enough about using a good quality camera and on how to adjust all the settings properly.

Carol O Keeffe is an independent Cork-based film-maker who teaches film in St. John’s College. http://www.carolokeeffedocumentary.com/?page_id=2

Carol worked with me on drawing up an essential check list to be consulted for every film shoot.  I am very grateful to Carol for sharing her expertise with me.

I have shared this check list with Annmarie and we will be using it on future shoots.  We plan to do further shoots together before Christmas to learn more about video capture of interviews.

For me this collaboration has had a number of benefits.  I am learning more about the skill of video capture which I hope to use for future oral history work. I am also interested in leaning more about the Memory Map and Neatline.  One option I am exploring is the possibility of developing a version of the memory map on which I would upload interviews with members of the lesbian and gay community in Cork – a kind of Queer Cork Memory Map.

The learning and collaborations continue!

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