Please find below information about the workshops we will be holding at our conference in October.

If you have any queries, please contact us at

Interviewing Basics

Presenters: Maura Cronin and Sinead Power-Quinn

This workshop considers what we mean by ‘interviewing’ in the context of oral history. Perhaps the word ‘interview’ is not suitable at all. In oral history, the important thing is to encourage the other person to remember, The oral history practitioner must ‘learn to listen’ with interest and enjoyment to stories that initially sound irrelevant to the task in hand, but usually provide wonderful windows into the past. This issue will be explored through (a) listening to recorded extracts from interviews and (b) the sharing of experience of workshop participants.

The practical matter of preparation will be discussed – preparation in terms of both equipment and the practitioner’s understanding of the subject. What sort of recorder is needed? How do we prepare ourselves to understand the world about which our narrator will speak? Should we prepare questions in advance? Afterwards, should we transcribe the interviews? How do we ensure the safe depositing of our recordings?

Listening to the recording afterwards, and trying to ‘get at’ the past through the words of the narrator can raise many issues about historical ‘accuracy’ and contradictory evidence. How do we deal with contradictions in stories told, either by one or several people? What about personal and local sensitivities? Are there ethical issues involved and how do we deal with those?

The Cork Folklore Project – Twenty years of learning

Presenters: Dr. Tomás Mac Conmara & members of the Cork Folklore Project

A presentation and workshop outlining the development, challenges and progress of one of Ireland’s most established folklore and oral history projects.  The Cork Folklore Project was established in 1996 and continues as a leader in the documentation and dissemination of folklore and oral history.   The workshop will be led by the manager of the Cork Folklore Project Dr. Tomás Mac Conmara and will feature presentations from researchers who are currently working on aspects of the project.  The workshop will be of benefit to both individuals and groups who are interested in carrying out this type of work.

Why Place Matters in Oral History

Presenters: Arlene Crampsie and Ronan Foley

Place matters. Many oral histories are at heart, narratives about people in places. In those histories, place as location, as setting and as ‘home’, is always at the beating heart of the story. All histories happen in or across different places. Even the collection of oral history takes place somewhere, and indeed often the choice of where to record is an essential aspect of good oral history practice. As two historical geographers, the conveners of this workshop believe that all studies must be properly situated in space as well as time.

For us, place is central to how we do oral history. This workshop, will therefore examine how we as oral historians could give place the same respect as time. Drawing on our own experiences and through interactive exchanges with participants we will explore three key elements of place in oral history – the impact of place on memory and narratives, considering the role of geography when selecting interviewees, possibilities and challenges of unique interview locations. Given the huge range of subjects that can be classed as oral history, much of what matters, matters in place.

Collecting Traditions

Presenter: Thérèse McIntyre

As oral historians, we talk a great deal about issues such as ethics, best practice, how to conduct an interview, uses of technology and a myriad of other subjects that encompass the more practical side of oral history. One aspect of oral history that tends to be overlooked, however, and one which, perhaps, pre-dates the concept of the interview, is that of the collecting of traditions. In an Irish cultural context this may include stories, folklore, songs, music, and even place names.

This workshop, titled ‘Collecting Traditions’, aims to explore the complex connection between the collectors of cultural traditions and the carriers of these cultural customs. The purpose of the workshop is to create an open dialogue between the participants in the aftermath of the collection process in order to examine the various perceptions each may have concerning this practice.

Areas under examination will include:

1. Methodology – Is it better to record using audio or visual methods, or a combination of both? What are the expectations of the collector/source-practitioner, respectively, in terms of the material being collected? Were these expectations met during the course of the collection process or not? Do expectations differ between the collector/source-practitioner or are they the same?

2. Preparation – How does the collector/source-practitioner prepare for the recording? Are their preparations the same or different?

3. Decisions – How does the collector decide upon what material ‘needs’ collecting? Why does the source-practitioner agree to record his/her material? Who determines what is or is not important material within the course of the recording? What happens if a recording begins to ‘go wrong’ (i.e. song forgotten; mistakes in a tune)? For whom is the collecting being done (‘audience’)?

4. Aftermath – What is the best way to use the material that has been collected? Was the collector/source-practitioner happy with how the material was used/presented in terms of an archive, ‘official’ recording (CD), etc.? Did the relationship continue after the collection process?

In keeping with the conference theme of ‘People and Place – Oral History in Ireland’, the panel is composed of pairings of a collector of cultural traditions and their respective source/practitioner – all of whom have recorded and/or collected traditional cultural material, either via aural recording or video, with the aim of creating an ‘archive’, plus a moderator. Each pair (for approximately 20 minutes) will discuss the above topics.

The last few minutes would be open to the floor for any questions/comments. Ideally, this should work as a ‘Hedge School’ type set-up – a moderated session that opens up into a dialogue/discussion.