History of EMOHA

In the beginning

In 1983 Market Harborough Museum started recording oral histories at almost exactly the same time as the Leicester Oral History Archive. These two projects, one taking in the city of Leicester and the counties of Leicestershire and Rutland, the other concentrating on the Harborough area, were pioneering projects that led the way for other oral history projects over the next three decades.

Early days

Before oral history recordings there had been two main sources of sound recordings in the region. The Leicester Tape Club recorded many events and musical programmes from the mid-1950s onwards. BBC Radio Leicester started in 1967 and continues recording the voices of the region to this day. However, there are always a few one-offs and the University of Leicester has a recording of Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Sir Robert Martin, from 1956 talking about his native county.

The 1980s and 1990s

The Leicester Oral History Archive (LOHA) was started by Ned Newitt as part of a degree course. It was originally called the Industrial & Social History Project and was funded by the Manpower Services Commission (MSC). Shirley Aucott took over the running of the archive, followed by Siobhan Kirrane. LOHA closed in 1990 due to a lack of funding. Recordings at Harborough Museum continued throughout this period, supervised by Steph Mastoris. The Mantle Oral History Project started in 1986 at the Springboard Centre in Coalville in North-West Leicestershire and ran until the 1990s.

Leicester City Council started its Living History Unit in 1993. It was run by Cynthia Brown and Angela Cutting and in time became the Community History Unit. Following Angela's retirement in the 2000s, the project wound down. It created over 200 new recordings and published a range of books.

A new century

By 2000 there were large numbers of recordings from around the region, stored away in boxes and not being used or looked after. To begin to remedy this, a partnership between the Centre for Urban History at the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council was awarded heritage lottery funding to create the East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA). Managed by Cynthia Brown, the Archive digitised and catalogued all recordings created up to the early 2000s. It also took in the reel-to-reel tape archive of Radio Leicester.

Lottery funding ended in 2004 and, with the continued support of the Centre for Urban History and the University of Leicester, the Archive continues the work that was first started over 35 years ago.