Communicating Connections, Essex Record Office’s project exploring the history and legacy of the Marconi Company is finally underway after being delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Here, Project Co-ordinator and Oral Historian, Laura Owen, talks us through how the project is developing and how the project team have adapted to local and national restrictions.
Anyone who has ever been involved with oral history will tell you that the beauty of a community based oral history project is the joy of meeting new people and learning about their lives for the few hours you’re interviewing someone. They’ll usually offer you a warm invitation into their home, make you a (sometimes) lovely cup of tea and be willing to talk about their lives, memories and no doubt, opinions. However, all this came crashing to a halt when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. For me, I was looking forward to recruiting volunteers and getting on with collecting the stories of people who worked at the Marconi Company and who were involved in the company in other ways. We decided to postpone the start of the project until, we hoped, we could safely begin interviewing in-person. When a second national lockdown began to look likely and was eventually announced I conceded to the fact that our interviews for the project would have to be done remotely.
Our search for volunteers in October brought in so much interest, and I had amazing conversations with everyone who applied which I thoroughly enjoyed. In the end, we recruited 10 wonderful volunteers to conduct our oral history interviews – an increase from our planned 6 – and we underwent training in oral history interviewing delivered by Rib Davis, an accredited trainer from the Oral History Society which was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.
The shift to remote, online interviewing brought us new challenges; we had to look into how we could actually record our interviews and still keep archive quality, and of course there are now more logistical challenges relating to the passing of equipment between both volunteer interviewers and our interviewees. But some positives have come out of these changes: we are now able to interview people all over the country (and potentially around the world) which wouldn’t have been possible if we were conducting all of our interviews in-person.
After numerous changes and Zoom meetings, our interviews are now underway! As I’m writing this, we’ve currently interviewed 2 ex-Marconi employees about their time at the Company and their memories of their work and colleagues. As things stand, we’ll be interviewing into the New Year so please do get in touch if you or someone you know was involved with Marconi’s.
We are currently looking for:
- Women who worked for Marconi or had an involvement in the company in any capacity
- People of colour and/or migrants who worked for or had an involvement in the company
- People who may not have worked directly for Marconi, but their company dealt with Marconi in some way
- People who did not have Management responsibilities or worked in lower ranks of the company
- People who may not have had an entirely positive experience with the company and/or were affected by mass redundancies
- People who met their husband/wife at the company
You can find out more about the project by following us on social media:
On Twitter @MarconiHeritage
On Facebook at www.facebook.com/CommunicatingConnections.
You can also get in touch with us via email, firstname.lastname@example.org