How have you maintained the confidentiality of the calls to Switchboard when making The Log Books?
Callers’ confidentiality is of utmost importance to Switchboard. As The Log Books team worked with Switchboard to use the archive, we discussed confidentiality right from the start and throughout the production process. Here’s how we’ve done it. We haven’t released any information from log book entries via the podcast that makes it possible for someone to identify a caller to Switchboard. We have changed their names and often redacted other details, such as their location. If a log book entry includes several details that, combined, could result in someone identifying the caller, we have made changes to those details or redacted them.
How did you choose who to interview?
Switchboard’s log book entries are filled with all sorts of voices, from callers and volunteers. We wanted to make sure that our 40+ contributors reflected that diversity of experience and identity. This involved a lot of research. We contacted people through our own networks, Switchboard’s networks and those of former volunteers, and various organisations. We made an open call to the public, which we shared via social media. This call stated the intentions of the project, and asked for stories. Many of the people who shared their stories through that call ended up being taped for the podcast.
Because the podcast is concerned with today as much as years past, and because the way that LGBTQ+ people work together as a group has changed, we knew we had to stretch well beyond the range of people who interacted with Switchboard in the 70s and 80s. So this meant making sure to use some experiences and identities discussed today, where they offered fresh perspectives on the history we are covering. It was a pleasure to meet the dozens of contributors who gave up their time to share their stories.
How did you decide what parts of LGBT+ history to include in the podcast?
We took our lead from the log books. Our aim with the podcast is to tell an LGBTQ+ history of Britain through the matters raised on calls to Switchboard. It was surprising that certain themes or issues did not appear in the log books, but that gives us an insight into the kinds of people who were able to make private discrete calls, and about how and where Switchboard promoted its services. For example, religions are barely raised on calls in the early years of Switchboard. That means that we didn’t include it in the podcast as a theme. Of course, there were people of faith who were also queer in the 70s. But we stuck to the issues raised in the log books.
Why has the historic language not been changed or removed from the log book entries?
The log books are a historical artefact. It is incredibly useful to see historic language in context, to help us learn where we have come from. When using a primary source it is better to quote it directly, on its own terms, and then add context and analysis. We hope that The Log Books podcast adds context and analysis to the historic terms used by volunteers and callers in the 70s and 80s. But we know that some historic terms can hurt people, so we’ve added a content warning at the start of each episode that uses terms that can offend.
Can I use the log books archive for my project?
The Switchboard log books are part of a special collection held at the Bishopsgate Institute in London. You are able to apply to the archivist to access the collection. And if you make something, we’d love to see/hear it, so let us know!
Can I interview one of your contributors for my project?
Some of them may be open to talking to others about their stories. We can’t promise anything, but we might be able to put you in touch. Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you use the log books to track down anyone who called Switchboard?
We did not want to contact someone out of the blue who phoned Switchboard 45 years ago for help with a problem. Callers’ confidentiality is of utmost importance to Switchboard. So we did not use any identifying information in the log books to track down callers and ask them for an interview.
We did contact one person after finding his name mentioned in the log book. He was not a caller, but someone whose work involved people who called Switchboard. His work was already a matter of public record, and he was happy that we contacted him.