The world isn’t going to stop spinning anytime soon, and once 2019 becomes a distant memory – it might be nice for future generations to hear stories from their ancestors.
And now that the Oliver & District Heritage Society Museum has launched the Oral History Technology Library, it’s never been easier to pass on the tales of today. Anyone from Town can rent out video cameras and audio recorders from the Museum at no cost.
“This goes beyond reading about your family history in a book,” said Cassandra Colman, Museum and Archive assistant. “This allows the stories of today to get passed on in a much more personal, intimate and meaningful way. It can be very important to a lot of people – especially as relatives age, we’re now able to get their stories before they’re gone forever.”
There’s no wrong way to communicate with descendants from the future. Simply hit record and begin talking about favourite family traditions, share anecdotes about life in 2019, and describe nuances of the present era that might get lost or forgotten in the sands of time.
Colman says it can feel more comfortable to record with other family members in a pair or a group.
Opening with a joke can be a good way to break the ice to speak more smoothy, she says, and it’s a good idea to prepare a list of questions for an interview-style format.
“Want people to be comfortable when they tell these stories instead of just reciting a script for a recorder. Once things get moving, then you can really tackle the meat of whatever it is you’re trying to get into.”
Traditionally, recording technology was much more expensive and onerous. Only recently has recording technology made it easy and affordable to preserve comprehensive stories. And in high-definition, recordings can go far beyond simple dictation like a favourite recipe or the lineage of a family tree.
“Video recording gives you a little extra nuance,” Colman says. “The visual recording can pick up details that audio can’t – hand gestures, expressions, things that you can only image through audio. So if you’re interviewing a family member who does traditional crafting, quilting, hooked rugs – it’s a great chance to show you on camera exactly what they’re talking about. Really get into the nitty gritty of their craft.”
However, some people can be camera shy, so the Museum also has audio recorders in their Oral History Technology Library as well.
“They both have their own advantage.”
Since nobody’s getting any younger, it’s a good idea for families to get started on such a project sooner than later.
“If there are any family members you might want to record stories from – do it now,” Colman says. “In an instant they could be gone and their stories would be gone with them too. It would be very tragic, but it shows this is urgent. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
After the audio or video has been recorded, Colman recommends storing them in as many places and formats as possible, and in the highest quality.
To make sure the stories are able to reach deep into the future, it’s important to consider the challenges that might face distant audiences. The Museum’s recording devices use SD cards which easily connect with most modern hardware, but at some point in the future, that technology is likely to become out of date.
“Who knows – something could even happen to the Internet one day – if the cloud goes down, hopefully your files weren’t only stored there,” she said. “As an archivist, I like having a physical copy, a CD or tape, just in case.”
The recording equipment can be borrowed for free from the Museum anytime during regular hours, and she encourages locals of all ages, backgrounds and expertise to take part in the project.
Colman hosted a first workshop on the Oral History Technology Library during Family Day Weekend, and is planning more in the future. Follow Oliver and District Heritage Society on Facebook to stay up to date.