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A new project organised by the University of Leicester is making a number of oral history interviews with people who lived during the 19th and 20th centuries available online.

The project is a partnership between the University Library and the East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA). Over 400 recordings are being placed online, with a formal launch planned for March 2017.

Photo Credit: University of Leicester/ Special Collections

The interviews are all taken from the collections of the former Leicester Oral History Archive, which were captured during the 1980s. They encompass a wide range of topics including childhood experiences, factory work, women’s lives, the world wars, and local politics.

Among the archived recordings is a discussion with Nora Waddington about her experience studying as a student at Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College.
The interview sheds a fascinating light on the experience a typical university student would have had in the 1920s, mentioning that classes were significantly smaller, with some lecturers teaching classes of just one student.

Photo Credit: University of Leicester/ Special Collections

Nora also mentions how the majority of university students lived at home and commuted either by bike or train – a huge contrast to today.

She also recounts a Christmas in 1924 where a Christmas tree was put up on campus and all the students were given a Christmas present. However, Nora also describes some similarities with the modern university experience, including joining societies and sports clubs, as well as experiencing nights out – although rather than nightclubs they took the form of formal dances and Saturday hops.

Rhianna Watson, Archives and Special Collections Assistant at the University of Leicester, said: “These interviews give a deep insight into the lives of those who lived in Leicestershire and Rutland during the 19th and 20th centuries.

“As a recent graduate from the University of Leicester I found that being able to compare Nora’s university experience to my own was very interesting. I feel that having these interviews online is an excellent source for anyone who is interested in local or social history.”

Colin Hyde, manager of the East Midlands Oral History Archive at the University of Leicester, added: “Memories of the end of the Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, life in Edwardian Leicester and the First World War are not going to be added to, said Colin.

“By putting these interviews online we are making a huge range of unique personal and local stories available to the public. Anyone who has an interest in the history of Leicestershire and Rutland should find something of value in these recordings.”


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