Memories Materialised: a public online oral history environment
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Chester
Unit of AssessmentArt and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
`Memories Materialised' examines the 50-year-old memories of the people
who lived on a half-mile stretch of Stockport Road in Manchester from
The project has created new models of history data collection,
encouraging discursive examination of individuals' recollections, in
direct contrast to traditional methods which can direct the flow of those
thoughts and memories.
An online archive and publication have been generated and distributed to
thousands of people, which are proving invaluable for researchers and the
public alike, and give a valuable insight into a changing world in this
snapshot of city life.
During late 2011 to 2013, Grennan (Research Fellow in Fine Art at the
University of Chester since February 2012) and a team from Great Places
Housing Group undertook two major projects in the Levenshulme, Longsight
and Hulme areas of Manchester. The first involved three studies of the
attitudes of 50 people, aged between 14 and 20, to a range of accepted
oral history research practices. The second involved three more studies of
30 older people, aged 60+, and their recollections of particular
locations, people and events.
Indications from these studies were used to hypothesise new models of
both oral history data collection and data presentation, relative to the
conventional model of oral history practice. Traditionally, a trained
interviewer first directs the subject to specific topics and, second,
constructs the interviewer's putative neutrality relative to the topics in
view. This method also places a great deal of emphasis on the veracity of
the interviewee's testimony, which is approached as a primary source of
information. In this model, it is rare to bring interviewees together to
discuss memories or to consider the ways in which memories themselves
develop. However, with `Memories Materialised', the emerging model of data
collection encouraged discursive interrogation of memory itself, rather
than default to documented facts, allowing contradiction, dissent and
opinion about personal experiences of the past to come to the fore. This
approach provided the basis for the new model of data presentation in an
online environment in which a schematic map, a searchable location archive
and a virtual walk-through present representations of the subjects'
References to the research
2. Grennan, S. and Great Places Housing Group (2013). `Memories
Materialised', publication and website: http://www.memoriesmaterialised.com/.
This output has been submitted in REF2.
2012 — `Levenshulme Intergenerational Memory Project', Heritage Lottery
Fund, £38,900 (Great Places Housing Group).
Details of the impact
Led by Dr Simon Grennan, the project team included an academic researcher
(Grennan) and five public engagement and youth engagement staff from Great
Places Housing Group, Manchester. The impacts described below have
occurred during the period autumn 2011 to spring 2013.
Aiming to pilot new oral history methods and present the results publicly
to a stakeholder community, `Memories Materialised' bridged the gap
between practice and cutting-edge theory in the field. The project
recruited a team of 30 volunteers in two groups: people over 60 years of
age with personal memories of Stockport Road in 1963 and people under 20
currently living in the area. The young people came from a wide range of
European, Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds, reflecting the changes
brought by migration into Levenshulme and the surrounding areas. The age
difference between the groups provided insight into these changes, showing
that Stockport Road in 1963 was a very different world to the one we know
now. Over nine months, the groups worked together to share stories and
document recollections of the street, producing more than 300 documents
for use online and in print.
There has been a lasting impact from the study, particularly in terms of
intergenerational awareness, local cross-sector partnerships and in oral
history process and archive modelling. Over a year, the project provided
an environment in which 30 people with very different life experiences and
of very different ages worked closely together, identifying aims, creating
and fulfilling strategies and producing the archive, gaining enhanced
understanding of each others' experiences, values and points of view.
As well as the new partnership between research academia and Great Places
Housing Group, the project has engendered new partnerships between local
voluntary and community groups, their facilitators and members,
particularly Levenshulme History Group, Inspire Centre, Northmoor Youth
Group, Inspire Youth Group, totalling another 20 key, secondary
The new model of an archive presented in `Memories Materialised' is under
scrutiny by research and professional archivists in the UK, at the
Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London, and in Belgium at the KU Leuven.
The impact of the model upon further developments in the fields of,
firstly, digital archiving, and, secondly, public engagement with
archives, is already being felt through uptake of both the conceptual
framework and the model's specific technology by these two institutions:
KU Leuven in terms of the ways in which visualisation techniques can
provide a taxonomic framework for an archive, and Guildhall Art Gallery in
terms of developing a proactive role for remote visitors to its
The public legacies of `Memories Materialised' also include an online
archive and a free publication presenting a virtual walk-through, map and
searchable archive which comprise the personal memories of this research
project's subjects. The subject groups also directed the construction of
the website and helped to design the publication. The site and publication
were launched at a public event attended by 150 people and 3,000 copies of
the publication were subsequently distributed door-to-door to domestic
addresses within a mile radius of the stretch of Stockport Road. Since
mid-March 2013, the site has averaged 54 views a day. For at least two
more years, the site will be managed by the voluntary organisation
Levenshulme History Group.
Sources to corroborate the impact
1. The impact of the `Memories Materialised' project can be corroborated
by the Community Development Officer, Great Places Housing Group,
Manchester. See also:
2. The impact of the research on public engagement with archives through
visualisation techniques can be corroborated by a representative of the
Faculty of Arts, KU Leuven, Belgium.