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The Heritage & Cultural Exchange

Life Histories

Stories about the olden days... we all have a granny or grandpa, aunt, uncle or neighbour who can tell great stories about how things were in their childhood! And those stories hold so much more than the official history books.
The HCE archive has inherited a large collection of oral history interviews - the tapes, the transcripts, sometimes even the exhibitions based on it. This holds a wealth of stories that we felt was one of the most important things to preserve!
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We were lucky enough to be able to work with the National Library of Wales in the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project (also funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund), who offered to digitise all of our oral history tapes! 
The first step in this process was the sorting, numbering and recording of all that tapes we had. There are hundreds of cassette tapes, but also dozens of minidiscs and some other stranger formats of tapes. An amazing group of volunteers spend many hours in the Archives patiently numbering every tape and tape box, and recording all the information found on the tape for our catalogue.
Even after setting aside all the duplicate copies we were able to catalogue c. 600 recordings to go for digitisation, with recordings ranging from the 1980s to 2010s! 

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While the digitisation is ongoing, we've also recorded all the paper summaries and transcripts of the interviews in the archives. It is very easy to get stuck in and read the whole interview once you start! There are life history interviews with many people from the 80s and 90s and also interview projects about specific topics, such as WW2 or Women's Lives. 
Since early 2020 we're receiving the digitised recordings in batches, whenever they're ready. It takes quite a while to do all of them, as the machines that digitise them need to play the tapes in real time, so every cassette tape can take up to two hours!
When we receive the recordings, our volunteers listen and summarise them. This means we can provide everyone looking through our catalogue with a summary of the contents of the tape, so you know if it would be of interest to you!