Repopulating the Industrial Landscape: Giving Former Employees a Voice in History
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© 2017 International Australian Studies Association. This paper examines the concept of putting history “under the power of the public”. It discusses the role played by former employees in researching and publishing the histories of two former large industrial history/heritage sites in Perth, Western Australia. The projects originated not in academia but from past employees who sought the help of labour historians to record the histories. Former employees provided much of the research material and assisted as sources of information, interviewers and interviewees, site guides and critics of work put forward for publication. While academic authors were responsible for interpreting their own research, past employees had a voice in the ways in which the sites’ stories were presented to the public, and the veracity of that information. The article explores the subversive potential of subaltern histories such as these, as well as some principles for putting history under the power of the public. It concludes by examining the strengths and weaknesses of this method, including the extent to which the pressures of academia discourage historians from engaging with “popular” projects requiring “a different voice”.
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