Call for volunteers to help preserve treasure trove of East Midlands history

Colin Hyde, Sounds for the Future project manager, among part of the University of Leicester's archive collections, which includes the East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA).

A £250,000 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund will help archivists and volunteers secure the future of the East Midlands Oral History Archive.

The East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA) has been archiving, collecting and using oral history recordings for over 20 years. Based in the Centre for Urban History at the University of Leicester, it is a partnership with the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland.

Highlights include what is thought to be the first oral history recording in Leicester – a 1959 folk song with a ‘Mr English’ of Braunstone – as well as first-person accounts of life in the City and cultural touchpoints such as Leicester’s pop music past.

Tens of thousands of people have also listened to recordings of Leicester veterans’ memories of the Korean War, made accessible on YouTube.

In the past, many recordings were archived to CD-R, which are now at risk of deterioration, as are several collections of tapes that have never been digitised. There is also a large backlog of cataloguing, which means that many recordings are not available to researchers or members of the community.

Archivists leading the Sounds for the Future project are now looking for volunteers to help preserve all of EMOHA’s collections in a new digital preservation system and bring the catalogue up to date. The project will also create lots of opportunities for volunteers to learn about oral history, audio preservation, and how to use oral histories to explore local history and heritage.

Colin Hyde, Sounds for the Future project manager based within the Centre for Urban History, said: “I am grateful to the National Lottery players who have made this project possible. The funding will enable us to open up our collections and make them more accessible, and ensure that they will still be available to be listened to in many decades’ time.”

Dr Simon Dixon, Head of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Leicester, added: “The East Midlands Oral History Archive is one of the most important collections of its type in the country. Oral histories often capture the experiences of people and communities who are underrepresented in the archival record. A key feature of the EMOHA are collections and interviews that reflect the diversity of our city and region. The collections also capture the changing urban and rural landscape of the area and the working lives of hundreds of ordinary people.

“We are looking forward to working with volunteers to ensure that these recordings are preserved and made more widely accessible to the public.”

If you would like to find out more about the Sounds for the Future project, as well as how you can volunteer, contact Colin Hyde on or call 0116 252 5065.