Toward a Methodology for the Use of Oral Sources in Historical Archaeology
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Recent advances in the use of objects in memory studies and in reminiscence work demonstrate the potential for using objects in archaeological oral-history projects. It is proposed that an artifact-centered interview model provides a framework that is well suited for use in archaeological research. Observations from recent studies in the fields of historical archaeology and memory studies, alongside results from research ongoing at Newcastle University, have informed the development of an artifact-centered approach to oral-data collection. By recognizing that the fragmentary material uncovered through excavation is often unfamiliar to non-archaeologists, the artifact-centered approach uses complete “exemplar” objects to fill the interpretive gap between sherds in artifact bags and actual 19th-century domestic interiors. Results show that exemplar objects are powerful mnemonic aids, and interviews conducted with elderly working-class women in northeastern England demonstrate that it is possible to conduct interviews today that directly influence the interpretation of 19th-century archaeological material.
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