RHUL, HISTORY MA Public History Alumni Seminar #1


Dr Hanna Hagmark-Cooper:
From corner to community – Museums sharing authority in a Facebook world

Dr Hanna Hagmark- Cooper will talk about her work as the Director of the EMYA nominated Aland Maritime Museum as well as ‘Facebook as a way of collecting materials for museum exhibitions’.

HHC MIn April 2012 four men, all of whom had worked for the Gustaf Erikson (GE) shipping company, met up to plan and organise a summer get-together for former GE employees. As they exchanged memories and photos, they discovered an emotional need to collect stories and pictures from their past working lives (the 1950s onward). The men formed a Facebook group: ‘We who have been to sea in GE ships’. It proved to be immediately popular. Today the group has more than 550 members and still growing. In doing so, fulfilling a social necessity to re-member.

Members of the group post pictures from their time on board various GE ships: to date, more than 8,000 uploaded photographs. Information is exchanged about old friends, details of ships and ports. Together the members are creating a memory bank of life at sea in the second half of the 20th century. In doing so, they are meeting a historical need. The maritime historical records of Åland have very little on this period. Most of the existing material is concerned with the classic tall ships. Modern, engine-powered shipping is largely absent, in terms of objects, photos, archival material and stories.

In my capacity as director of Åland Maritime Museum, I was invited to join the group and survey the collected material. I was immediately struck by the significance of the collection. What made it particularly fascinating was that this was a story told from a crew perspective: ‘history from below’, if you like. The idea of an exhibition quickly formed and in 2013, as part of the 100th anniversary exhibition of the GE shipping company, Åland Maritime Museum produced an exhibition based on this collection. Members of the Facebook group co-curated the exhibition, which included not only a selection of photographs, but also the members’ commentary.

The exhibition was very popular and I believe serves as an example of how museum staffMuseum-exterior can work together with self-identifying groups in local communities, thereby sharing authority. While the paper will outline some of the challenges involved in cooperative working, I will demonstrate how museums through using social media can make otherwise marginalised histories available to wider audiences and how it can serve to place the museum at the heart of the community it seeks to represent. As a direct result of this cooperation, a new Åland project is now underway, in which a selection of the photographs will become part of the museum’s collection.

For more information about MA Public History Alumni seminars and activities, please contact: Dr Graham Smith.

Secrets from Belfast: Oral History and Boston College Troubles

Beth McMurtrie has produced a fine report on Boston College/IRA oral history case in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her report, Secrets from Belfast, includes some of the primary documents (including clearance forms), audio clips from the interviews and some outstanding images. It is a very good example of multimedia reporting of an important public history issue. It is also an article that will prove useful to anyone interested in oral history, ethics and the law.
Here it is:  – http://chronicle.com/article/Secrets-from-Belfast/144059/.

How to burn audio files to DVD

Please use a good quality (i.e. branded) blank DVD rather than CD to burn to; DVDs have a larger storeage capacity. In Windows see http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-vista/burn-a-cd-or-dvd-in-windows-media-player or http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-burn-music-to-a-cddvd-in-windows-media-play.html. There are other disc burning programmes available.

Important: Please burn the discs as DATA discs and not audio discs. We want to be able to access the files.

Windows 7 instructions for mp3 to CD – follow these instructions for wav to DVD:


Apple Mac

Here are some instructions for burning on IOS 10 Macs:


I don’t use Macs so you might want to seek out a more trusted source such as one of the priests that work in the Church of Apple Stores. Or you might look at Apple’s help file here: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1152

Naming interviewees on this blog

I’m guessing that those of you who have named future interviewees have permission to do so? If not then there are potential difficulties. Please think of all those discussions we had about respecting the interviewee’s wishes and not acting without explicit consent.  Perhaps if you don’t have permission you might want to anonymise for now?

Interviewing Roza

Isla’s post also reminds me that I now need to prepare for the interview I’ve agreed to undertake. Some of that will have to be about method. It must be more than a decade since I undertook an oral history interview with a translator (it’ll be Sylvia this time). There is not much literature in this area. Luckily, however Bogusia Temple has just published a relevant article in Oral History (Autumn 2013, 14,2; 100-9). This article is much more than a ‘how to’; it raises key questions about how language produces identity, and shapes our worldviews.  Bogusia also suggests ‘casting a wider net’ and considering other disciplinary insights into cross language work and translation.

I will also need to get up to speed with the history of Roma. Briefings by the Support Group help here. There are some excellent materials produced by the group, including from an earlier project with the Museum of London ( sadly the Museum no longer does this work). However, I will still need to identify other reading. I’ll begin by searching Google Scholar

Note on Box of Broadcasts

Look for the Voice of the Public MA Public History playlist on BoB  and please feel free to suggest additional materials to add to the Playlist. You can use BoB to record TV and radio programmes at http://bobnational.net/

RE: First 2013 class meets for the Voice of the Publics

What a great bunch of people. And a really good mix in terms of where everyone is coming from both in terms of geography and in ideas. Very much looking forward to working with the Public History MA students this year. Next week we begin to think about topic choices and project planning.


A warm welcome to the 2013 students of the MA Public History programme at Royal Holloway, University of London.MA PH small  This blog is specifically for the Voice of the Publics course, but please feel free to share appropriate news items as well as your reflections on the issues of using oral history in public history.