The visual at work
Oral history and institutional photographs
in Hot metal
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This chapter explores the complex interplay of memory and meaning that emerges when using oral histories and institutional photographs, in the interview itself and in the stages of interpretation. It engages with existing discourse in oral history, particularly in relation to the links between oral testimony and visual stimuli. In doing so, it broadens existing discussions in oral history to include the use of institutional photographs in the interview process, rather than personal or family images (which has often been the focus of previous research in this area). While institutional photographs do not necessarily show the ‘reality’ of workplace practices, such images can reveal some of the ways that institutions sought to represent themselves officially. The use of institutional photographs during the oral history interview can provide insights into the disjuncture between bureaucratic representations of an organisation and former employees’ detailed recollections of tangible details related to their working lives.

Hot metal

Material culture and tangible labour

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