Memories matter: historians audio diaries capture history in the making

29 May 2020

A team at the University of Hertfordshire is working on a project to capture history in the making. The Oral History Team, comprised of staff, students and community members at the University, recognised that changes brought to peoples’ lives as a result of the pandemic would be historically significant and began their recordings on 20 March, just before the government announced lockdown.

Led by Dr Eureka Henrich, Oral History Project team coordinator and Lecturer in History at the University of Hertfordshire, and Senior Research Fellow Andrew Green, the team of 12 includes volunteers from around the country. They regularly record their thoughts and feelings about the pandemic and the changes brought to their daily lives.

The crisis has altered the way the group make recordings. Instead of using audio equipment, volunteers have used their smart phones, computers or handheld recorders. They have weekly online meetings to discuss their findings. As the project has developed, the volunteers have submitted photographs they have taken that highlight aspects of live lived in the shadow of Covid-19.

Dr Henrich commented: “There was a feeling among the group that we needed to capture this moment of history as it happened and it has been fascinating to uncover differing attitudes as the team adapt to unique and changing circumstances. Oral accounts have the advantage of producing unfiltered, more expressive accounts that lend themselves to historical storytelling and will allow people looking back at this period a glimpse into how people felt at the time.”

Anne Murphy, Dean of the School of Humanities, commented: “This is an act of preservation of real historical significance. We will all want to look back on this period to understand how people felt and how they thought during this challenging time. I’m fascinated to see what comes out of the project as it evolves and how it will be used by future historians of the period.”


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