I know an inspiring lady called Phyllis . She is a retired doctor who came from India to this country to study medicine in the early 1950’s. It would be interesting to discuss the barriers she encountered both on racial and gender grounds. Was it difficult to obtain a place at the right university in the UK? It could not have been a commonplace that a woman would study medicine in Britain in the same way that it is today. I would like to discover the process she went through to qualify?
I will explore some of the challenges as well as opportunities that occurred both whilst training and when she began practising as a Doctor. Which field did she specialise in (if any) and how has that field of medicine advanced over the decades?.
The topic is significant for public history as I hope to discover some of the changes in her field of medicine as well as her knowledge of some of the organisational changes to the NHS. I would like to know her views on improvements in health care and were she feels there have been lost opportunities. It will be interesting to obtain an Indian woman’s perspective on Britain’s health service and the journey both she and the institution has made. Moreover it will be important to discover why she chose her particular field and ask weather she was directed/ persuaded to practice this specialism by her peers or University teachers? It is also important to record an interview with an individual who came from India at a time of social change for both Britain and India.
With aspirations for a change of career and becoming a public historian in a British museum I decided it was useful to research and write about the uses of oral history in museums.
Knowing virtually nothing about the use of oral history in the sector I decided to consult the Oral History Society’s archived articles to see the different methods and curatorial planning that has taken place in museums in the last 30 or so years. I was fascinated to find that oral history resources have been used in enhancing the story of human experience both here in the UK and the rest of the world.
My reading has not surprisingly included some of the theoretical concepts embedding oral history, but also the differing delivery methods of using oral history both in a gallery situation and online. I have learnt why utilising oral history in museums is important –for example, providing contextual information. That it is a key feature of research for both national and local institutions. That it is a useful tool for the democratisation of history. That its’ interpretation can sometimes be problematic –between what the scholar wants to learn and what the interviewee want to communicate. That there can be problems relating to design space, the amount of time to organise and deliver and the challenge of changing technology. I have also learnt that using oral history in a museum project has to be a collaborative process between the museum, the narrators and other organisations that may be involved in its delivery.
The reading has informed me that oral history can be used as a restorative and re-interpretative process, particularly when a society has repressed its past to suit its political masters. This illustrates the challenge of presenting history within living memory. Moreover, that in the modern age, oral history can act as a tool to encourage debate on historical or contemporary issues that grab public attention. Witness the use of the ‘Belonging: Voices of London Refugees’ at the Museum of London. I have also discovered that oral history can stand alone in an exhibition environment. The current climate for museums is tough and the collection and archiving of oral sources is underfunded, but this does not mean society should ignore the valuable contribution this method of delivering history provides.
Since recording the first blog I have learnt from Phyllis that she has had a varied career. After she completed her medical training it was her intention to go into General Practice but she was canvassed to specialise in Geriatric care. Then after 30 years in this field she re-trained to return as a General Practitioner.
I therefore need to research more on both the leading figures contributing to Geriatric medicine and the main changes brought to this medical field during her career. I also need to research and gain an overview of the skills that GP’s have to have to cope in a General Practice. However, I do not want to lose sight of the personal story made by this remarkable lady. I need to plan questions to gain a knowledge of her chronological career but I would also like to explore how she was treated as a woman in the medical profession. Was there any prejudice on gender grounds? Was there any racial prejudice in the medical establishment. I would also like to know how she coped raising a family and continued in her profession.
I will explore her views on the changes to the NHS since she began practicing in the late 1950’s both good and bad. I would like to know her views on improvements in health care specifically for elderly people and were she feels there have been lost opportunities. Consequently, through both personal research and her interview, I hope to learn more about the general innovations in Geriatric care and General Medicine.
The interview is important for public history as it is gives an insight into the NHS through a female, ethnic minority professional’s perspective. It may also provide information into the management of care as well as medical innovations within British health care since 1945.