Women preserve memories

By John Maslin

Stories your grandparents told you or perhaps some they haven't can now be saved for posterity, thanks to the foresight of two Wanganui women.

Dr Penny Robinson and Pam Richardson have combined their skills to help families collect their stories before it is too late.

While Dr Robinson takes the role of oral historian, writer and photographer, Mrs Richardson will take care of transcriptions, compiling the information and design. They are working under the banner of Your Stories.

She said many people had spoken to her about their family stories.

"They haven't so much asked about us doing that work for them rather than say it was something that ought to be done," Mrs Richardson said.

Dr Robinson has already put some of these stories together.

"People are doing it or talking about it because they want that personal memento of their family. The grandchildren particularly want to know what has happened in their families."

She said it was a continuation of the growth of oral histories which first gained pace in the UK and the US and then gathered momentum here in the 1980s.

"This is about catching information before end-of-life, when someone is bright and lively and wants to engage so their stories are not lost."

The women's business connection developed when Dr Robinson interviewed Mrs Richardson's mother.

"I've got a video of Mum telling stories. But because Penny was a third party she was asking questions that our family didn't necessarily think to ask," Mrs Richardson said.

The duo will gather individual and family material through interviews and research to create books, CDs, DVDs, leaflets, tributes, obituaries or other formats.

Dr Robinson has a background in social anthropology, journalism, research, writing and photography, while Mrs Richardson brings experience in computing, genealogical research and compilation.

When she was researching for her doctorate into the way women practised belonging, Dr Robinson said she realised that often people had no one else to record their life stories.

"At least not in the depth nor detail which add to the quirky stories that families tell repeatedly," she said.

Mrs Richardson said when loved ones are still alive "we often don't or can't ask the questions that later we wish we had".

The women can be contacted at (06) 345 0845, through info@yourstories.co.nz or at 180 Wicksteed St, Wanganui

- Wanganui Chronicle

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