This will be the fifth and final year for the Human History Project. The project will continue to preserve the historical memory of Queen’s from the 1960s onwards through recording the memories of faculty and staff who were employed during this time. The 1960s were chosen as a follow-on from the last official history of Queen’s which ends in 1961 and because it was exciting and tumultuous time. The project is a joint project of the Retirees’ Association of Queen’s, under the Retirees Academic Partnership, and of Queen’s University Archives. It is overseen by a volunteer oral history committee composed of members from both organizations.
In the summer of 2007, the project hired a student, Laura Swan (under the SWEP program), who did an excellent job of researching the events of those two decades, through the university records. She also prepared the background for interviews, evaluated interviewing techniques and determined the equipment required.
In the summer of 2008, we received ethics approval of the project from the Queen's General Ethics Board. The project hired three students (Hope Hutchins, Gemma Barker, Maryanne Wainman) who also turned out to be superb workers.
Hope, Gemma and Maryanne at the entrance to Queen's Archives
They began by reviewing the research of the time period in question as well as preparing consent and contact letters. After this was completed, they conducted and transcribed a total of 24 interviews, documenting their progress along the way.
Students who were employed in the project in summer 2008 found the people they interviewed inspirational. They reported ample opportunity to manage their tasks independently while bouncing ideas off each other and learning to act as a team. The experience led one student to consider new possibilities for post-Queen's plans and another to say her research methods course had come to life.
In the summer of 2009, interviews continued to cover the 1960s and began the 1970s. As before, the project focussed on personal recollections of themes and events prominent on campus then: dramatic increases in student, faculty and staff numbers, new degree programs, the building boom and the usual financial hardships. These years were also marked by the advancement of women, Canadian nationalism, security issues of the Cold War, plus student protests for housing and Senate seats and against the RCMP's secret presence on campus.
Hope, Laurel and Maryanne (2009 interviewers) at Queen's Archives
By the end of the summer, the students hired for the project in 2009 (Hope Hutchins, Laurel Dault, Maryanne Wainman) had completed and transcribed an additional 42 interviews, a 75% increase from 2008. Our student interviewers are really caught up in the project and impressed by the lives of those they interview. One student wrote an article for the Queen’s career planning magazine describing what a wonderful summer job it had been.
Reading the transcripts is a treat. Depending on the job, people employed at Queen's experienced quite different worlds, but all were living through great changes in the University. These stories will create a more lively, more human, more engaging, future institutional history of Queen's.
First-hand accounts are a valuable addition to the interpretation of historical events. Dr. Duncan McDowell, the historian working on the third volume of the history of Queen’s has already recognized the oral history interviews provide a unique research resource and has begun reviewing the available transcripts. The supervisory committee of the project will consult with Dr. McDowell about people he would be particularly interested in having interviewed this year. As soon as transcripts are released, they are accessible in the Archives to all interested scholars. Just ask at the reference desk in the Archives.
In 2010[,] three students (Amelia Wilkinson, Holly Tousignant and Caroline Garrod) working for the project contacted 37 people; seven of whom deferred their interview to this year, two of whom withdrew and four of whom have yet to review and return the transcript. Together with the results of previous years we have 89 completed interviews, with 8 transcripts not yet reviewed and returned. We will continue to push have these transcripts returned and included in the collection.
We opted to continue with a reduced budget this year given the University’s reduced finances. We requested two rather than three students from the student summer work experience program .Both positions were filled from a total of 65 applicants. We are delighted one of the students hired for the project last year (Amelia Wilkinson) is returning, enabling the project to get off to a fast start. Associate Vice Principal Susan Cole provided the funds to pay our share of the SWEP salaries, one third less than last year because of one fewer student. All of our expenses support students. The Archives provides direct supervision, space, advice and administration of our funds at no cost to the project.
A big thank you to the Queen's University Archives for providing administrative support, supervision, space and equipment. We owe a debt of gratitude for exemplary assistance to Deirdre Bryden and Paul Banfield of the Archives, to those willing to be interviewed, and to our interviewers. Our most sincere thanks to Principal Williams, Principal Woolf, Vice-Principal Deane, Associate Vice-Principal Cole, the Summer Work Experience Program and the Queen's Alumni Association. Without their funding, there would be no project.