Having agreed to take on this oral history project with GlaxoSmithKline I needed to understand the pre-existing history of the company. GSK is a company with a long history that has gradually become the organization we know today as a result of a series of mergers. When the company archivist showed me a family tree of all the companies which had amalgamated to form GSK in its present form I was pretty taken aback and decided to focus my research on one of these companies, Beecham’s Group. The women who attend the RSA meetings are all former employees of Beecham’s, and this was a company with a long and interesting history so it made sense for me to focus on that.
My research process involved reading previous literature on the history of Beecham’s, as well as taking a trip to the GSK archive which is located in a pretty but very difficult to get to country estate owned by GSK. Having recently celebrated its 300th anniversary the company has a strong sense of its past, and the archive contained lots of information about the mergers and acquisitions that had taken place over the years. The history of success enjoyed by the company was easily accessible and finding out how the company had achieved its globally acclaimed reputation was useful to me, however, I was not sure how much this side of its history would help me when the time comes to carry out my oral history interviews.
The reason I say this is because of the nature of the interviews I will be conducting and the questions I will ask. These interviews will cover the life history of the women of Beechams, from their early childhood to how they are spending their retirement. The history of the acquisitions and mergers of Beecham’s will likely cover only a small amount of the topics that will come up in the interviews. In this case, I need to broaden the scope of my research to ensure that I have a decent sense of the life experiences these women have lived through.