We have a project based on talking to people but are locked down – what now?
We were originally granted our funding (thank you Heritage Lottery Fund) in early 2020 and were happily making plans when COVID-19 presented itself and the world stopped.
Rather than give up we looked for ways and means to achieve our mission and had several questions to answer:
- How can we meet as a team?
- How can we get the word about who we are and what we are trying to do?
- How do we share our work?
- How do we research what is out there?
- How can we complete the training we need?
- How can we run a properly engaged interview?
- How do we present our results?
- How do we know how we are doing against our aims?
“How can we meet as a team?” was answered by using the Zoom video conference utility and we now run regular meetings allowing full discussion and planning as well as allowing us to get to know one another.
“How can we get the word out about who we are and what we are trying to do?” needed a variety of methods from posters in local key spots, to a web page, to a Facebook and Twitter account. We had support from local newspapers and the BBC (thank you!) and wrote articles for our local Parish magazines. All this was complemented by correspondence with local care homes and liaising with a local school (please see our blogs on the work with Westacre School). When restrictions began to be lifted we had a temporary exhibition at the Heritage Centre showing a timeline of the baths and key events.
“How do we share our work?” dealt with the issue of everyone having their own computers and copies of key documents. As it is inefficient to have multiple copies (it is virtually guaranteed they will get out of sync) we opted for the OneDrive shared cloud service that comes with the Microsoft Office suite. There were a couple of teething issues however we have made it work. It means we can all access the combined output without sending copy files all the time.
“How do we research what is out there?” has relied heavily on internet research as well as emails to potential sources including museums, football clubs and even a physio training college! We are lucky to have a phenomenal researcher who is outstanding at chasing down rabbit holes in search of information. Our first few interviews also generated leads for more people to talk to.
“How can we complete the training we need?” was again facilitated by Zoom video conferencing, supporting us learning how to evaluate our project progress and making the short films we have been producing.
“How can we run a properly engaged interview?” was also initially achieved using Zoom and we were able to apply the training given by our lead Oral Historian to record the interviews. Although we were concerned that it would be hard to conduct oral history interviews through a computer as our interviewees might struggle with the technology, we were pleasantly surprised to find that most people managed really well and the sound quality was surprisingly good. To help produce a quality result we used settings within the technology to capture each speaker individually as well as both together to help with editing the output.
“How do we present our results?” is being covered by ongoing snippets through social media, together with blogs on updates and interim achievements. There will be an exhibition at the end and all of the recorded interviews will be held in safe keeping at the Heritage Centre for future generations.
“How do we know how we are doing against our aims?” is met by a regular review of our social media and publicity numbers including the engagement we are achieving and a check on number of interviews completed and progress against planned conversations.
All in all, I submit we are doing well given the challenging situation and I am proud to be part of this multi-talented team.