Drafting a Workable Work Plan
The first stage in the Public History internship is drafting a 12 to 16 week work plan with the partner organization. Sitting down with Ted Hessel, the curator of the Metras Museum, in early April I asked him what his long term vision was for the museum in general and how he saw an oral history project fitting into this vision. Here are some of the objectives Ted wants to meet in the next few years:
- Increase Student Awareness: Ted argues that students continue to be passionate about Western varsity athletics, but are increasingly unaware of its rich past. He wants the museum to be a place where students visit regularly to learn about the accomplishments of Western athletes and coaches in the past.
- Increase Publicity: This is directly related to the first objective. Right now the museum is located in Alumni Hall at Western University and is only open during big events such as Homecoming. Although articles in Western News and the Alumni Gazette effectively increase publicity, an open door at the museum literally opens the door to the public. We also want to see local or academic scholars use the museum collections in their research.
- Expand the Collection: Ted has been collecting artifacts as a volunteer for a number of years. Jordan, the first intern with the Public History program, has worked to digitize old photographs and film reels. Now Ted wants to expand the collection by interviewing the alumni of Western and making their living memories available.
We discussed how an accessible oral history archive might be one means meeting the first two objectives. Providing living memories of events in the history of Western athletics will supplement (not replace) the written and material record that Ted has worked tirelessly to preserve. If the museum incorporated audio narratives from former athletes in its exhibits, this new dimension of the museum, will raise student awareness and increase the publicity of the museum for local or academic scholars.
After our meeting, Ted and I hammered out a work plan for developing an Oral History archive for the JP Metras Sports Museum. This will involve the following steps:
A. Conduct 10 in-depth interviews with former male and female athletes, administrators and/or coaches of Western University.
The intern will begin work with Ted Hessel, the President of the “W” Club, to draft interview guidelines and an oral history questionnaire based on research of Canadian sport history in general and Western sport history in particular. The guidelines and questionnaire will provide a framework for present and future interviews that determine the role of Western University in developing, training and educating Canadian amateur and professional athletes. Interviewers will seek to determine how this role changed over time in relation to the interviewee. Additionally, the interviews will explore the significance of the 1950’s-1970’s as a transformative era in Canadian amateur and university sport, in order to benefit a broader body of scholars interested in Canadian sport history. Finally, the interviews will address the influence of athletes, coaches and administrators on the evolution of Canadian sport policy.
Ted Hessel has drafted a prioritized list of 10 interviewees for this internship. The list will continue to grow over time to include more athletes, coaches and administrators. At this point, priority is determined by the age of the interviewee. The interviewee(s) will be contacted in advance of the interview, either in person or through a letter. The intern will use this pre-interview to discuss the project and the individual’s potential contribution to the research. If agreed to, the interviewee will sign a Letter of Information and Consent, which outlines their right to access and edit information after the interview is completed. It further outlines their agreement to share the authority of the interview with the Museum, allowing the museum to use the written and recorded content for its exhibits.
B. Process the interviews by evaluation of utility and by creating an index.
- Evaluate the Interviews – The intern will go over the interview and place the oral testimony within the context of the written record in order to assess the interviews worth for the Metras Museum.
- Creating an Index – The intern will develop an information sheet including “title of the project, general topic of the interview, the narrator’s name, birthplace, date of birth, occupation, and family members. This allows a future listener to understand the context of the interview. The intern will then create an index of key terms and proper names or places mentioned in the interview, in order to save the time users in their research with this material in the future.
C. Transcribe 5 of the interviews in order to create a tangible database of research for general and scholarly use.
A transcription is the written form of the taped interview. In this process, the intern will take the oral research and convert it into textual research. Generally, one hour of audio recording requires 4 to 6 hours of transcription. Since this process is time consuming it requires good software (i.e. ExpressScribe) as well as clear audio files. The intern will work with the Metras museum to ensure that their recording equipment is capturing the interviews clearly in order to make transcription as smooth as possible. Further, the intern will work to create transcription standards in order to facilitate the next interns to pick up the project.
D. Preserve the interviews in a digital repository
Once the transcript is complete, the Metras Museum will return it to the interviewee for revisions. Once it is approved, the intern will make the necessary changes and file one copy at the museum, and send a second copy to the interviewee for their own collections. The audio files will be stored with corresponding index papers. The intern will develop the online repository for the files, ensuring an organized and growing body of research.
E. Publicize the interviews in local or scholarly publications in order to alert scholars as well as the local community to the existence of this new body of research.
After the collection of interviews is deposited into the archive at Metras, the intern will work to ensure that the research continues to be useful for the public and professional communities. With the direction of the GM and Director, the intern will make the collection available and accessible for a wider audience. Publication in the Alumni Gazette and/or Western News will inform the school body of the Metras Museum, and presenting our project in The Public Historian’s, Reports from the Field will allow scholars to understand the work being done in the Metras Museum. Further, we will seek out a conference presentation to share our research with a broader academic community.
III: Project Timeline
Under the guidelines of our granting agency Mitacs-Accelerate, the internship will run for 16 weeks. Below is the projected timeline for the project.
Start Date: March 15, 2012
Finish Date: August 1, 2012
Weeks 1 – 3: The early stages of the project will involve researching the history of sport at Western in order to craft interview guidelines and questions. The questions will be established in accordance with the mission of the Museum to “reinforce the knowledge of sports history and the athletic tradition of Western University.” This stage will also involve the development and prioritization of an interview list, based on Ted Hessel’s extensive connections with former athletes and Olympians. This time will include the purchasing of audio and visual recording equipment and transcription and preservation software.
Weeks 4 – 10: Once we are ready for interviewing, the next weeks will involve contacting the potential interviewees, making them aware of the project and requesting their participation in it. With their approval, we will obtain the signed “Letter of Information and Consent”, thereby granting the interviewee authority to edit the interview, but also relinquishing to the Museum the rights to archive and utilize the research for their stated purposes of promoting sport history.
Weeks 11 – 16 – During these weeks we will transcribe a number of the interviews in order to establish a standard for the museum as well as a set of guidelines for future interns at Metras. Since the objective is to continue this project well into the future, much time will be taken to ensure quality work in transitioning the oral resource into text. In these weeks it will also be necessary to develop the archive of audio-visual files and recordings for future transcriptions. In this time it will be important to begin locating venues to publicize the new body of research at the Metras Museum to alert both the local public and interested professionals to the oral histories of sport. Finally, we will spend this time creating a procedural overview to ensure the projects maintenance in the coming years.
In the next posts: A week into the internship and already I can see areas in this work plan that need refining, or re-defining. But that is a beauty of a work plan; it gives direction while allowing flexibility for detours in light of new developments. In the next posts I will address the selection of oral history equipment and software for your projects. I will also discuss how to draft an Information and Consent Form, create transcription guidelines and hammer out ethical guidelines for your project.