Learn How To Become An Oral Historian At Redbridge Museum

| 08 June 2006
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photo shows blue hindu god

A Hindu God lent to Redbridge Museum for the Sharing Our Stories exhibition.

'In 1972 September we came to England. It was Idi Amin, he's the Prime Minister, he announced to all Indians to leave the country. We left that day. We arrived in London so all four lived in one room and there's a paraffin smell. You can't open the door because we came in September, so it's cold weather and that time in September you can see so much fog in the evening, after three o' clock or so - you can't see anything out the house.'

Mrs Bharti Mehta recalls leaving Uganda and arriving in London.

The debate about who writes history and which parts of it should be taught in schools is a fierce one - especially as the government's curriculum authority lays plans for revisions to the history syllabus. Groups like the Black and Asian Studies Association have been making the case for the inclusion of more BME figures.

Meanwhile, pupils from Valentine's High School in Redbridge have been learning how to take history into their own hands. They have been recording stories of people from many of the cultural groups in the borough: East African Asians, like Mrs Bharti Mehta who is quoted above, plus people from Jewish, African and Asian backgrounds. The results, now showing at Redbridge Museum, do not look like a 'school project' but give a measured and professional picture of the mulplicity of experiences in the borough.

photo shows sari in museum display

The display at Redbridge Museum, showing a hanging sari

As well as producing a museum exhibition, they have also written a guide "Sharing Our Stories - How to Become An Oral Historian". It was developed with help from Eastside Community Heritage, who have long experience of gathering the stories of everyday lives in East London. The book looks at the research an oral historian needs to do before an interview, the questions to ask, and ways to stay impartial when stories stray onto highly political or personal ground.

photo shows sari in museum case

Mrs Siddiqua's dress, lent to Redbridge Museum for the exhibition

Redbridge Museum hold a copy of the report, and are happy for other schools interested in getting the basics of oral history to come and get a copy. You can see the full exhibition at Redbridge Museum until 1st July.

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