Oral History Meetings IOHA in Sydney, Australia, 12-16 July 2006

A great success, the 14th International Oral History Conference, “Dancing with Memory: Oral History and its Audiences,” was held in Sydney, Australia, from 12 to 16 July 2006. The conference attracted over 400 people from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

The attendance figures affirm the IOHA practice of moving the international conference around the world in order to invite participation from people who previously have not attended IOHA conferences. The continuing strong presence of participants from Brazil and South Africa indicate the flow on effects of having held conferences in those countries. Efforts to attract attendance from oral historians in Asia were not as successful as hoped in terms of numbers, although the paper presenters from Asia highlighted the depth and diversity of oral history practice and provided an impetus for the IOHA Council and members to increase Asian networking.

Fully booked Master Classes were conducted by Alessandro Portelli (the creative aspects of memory), Linda Shopes (preparing oral history interviews for publication), Alistair Thomson (interpreting oral history), and Michael Fegan and Dean Rehberger (oral history in the digital world). These provided focused three hour workshops in which presenters shared their expertise and invited comment and interaction. The conference began with a reception hosted by the City of Sydney at the Sydney Town Hall on the Wednesday evening. Following a welcome to country, Councillor Phillip Black drew particularly on Aboriginal histories and traditions to demonstrate his engagement with oral history as a powerful research and community tool. The reception also provided a warming introduction where old friends and new acquaintances could meet over wine and food.

The conference dinner took place on Thursday night at NSW Parliament House. A vocal acoustic trio, Touchwood, provided entertainment. On Friday evening, Urban Theatre Projects (http://www.urbantheatre.com.au/) in association with Bankstown Youth Development Service presented a performance, FAST CARS & Tractor Engines that drew on oral history interviews with local residents from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and with different passions. International audiences were confronted with bursts of idiomatic Australian language, actors changing character, changing and sometimes confronting electronic images as backdrops, and statements about lives in Sydney’s western suburbs. Sample stories from the play can be heard online at http://www.urbantheatre.com.au/fastcars.html. Some of the conference delegates elected to take the tour to Canberra organised by the National Library of Australia. In two days, they acquired a taste of Australia’s capital city and some immersion in the oral history worlds of a number of the national cultural institutions. One participant, Suzanne Mulligan, has provided a detailed report – scroll to the end of the On Tape, September 2006 newsletter at http://www.flexi.net.au/~mulligan/Newsletter.htm. The conference began with carefully considered welcome addresses by dignitaries the Hon. Bob Debus (NSW Minister for the Arts), Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir (Governor of NSW), and Professor Sue Rowley (UTS) followed by responses from Rina Benmayor for IOHA and Rosemary Block for OHAA. As both Rina and Rosemary observed, the content of the welcome addresses demonstrated how the visiting dignitaries had engaged with the conference program and with the nature of oral history. Peter Read’s moving and insightful comparative excursion into oral history, national reconciliation and conspiracies of silence in Australia in relation to the Stolen Generations and in Chile in relation to the Pinochet Repression set a powerful tone for the remainder of the conference.

Mid-stream in the conference was a panel to mark the Tenth anniversary of IOHA. Chaired by Don Ritchie, the panellists (Alexander Von Plato, Marieta de Moraes Ferreira, Alessandro Portelli and Ronald Grele) shared their memories and visions for the future of the international oral history movement. Their presentations will be published by IOHA. The powerful plenary sessions and the keynote address were flanked by equally powerful parallel sessions organized under conference sub-themes. Statistics indicate patterns in the topics addressed, which suggest developing emphases in international oral history scholarship and practice. Following are the number of papers presented under each of the conference sub-themes: archiving memory (23), fire and water (10), healing memories (7), island stories (4), memory and community (47), memory and trauma (20), places and buildings (11), pleasures of memory (9), political pasts (13), sharing/passing on beliefs (6), stories in translation (8), talking to ourselves (27), and teaching and learning (11).

New features introduced for the 14th International Oral History Conference and which proved worthwhile included: Online database of paper abstracts, which proved an effective way both to advertise the content of the conference and to assist with the organization of the program. Bilingual abstracts, available through both the online database and as a printed book at the conference, ensured that conference delegates could select sessions and papers based on more than a paper title. As well, the book – along with the CDRom of conference papers – provides a permanent record of the range of papers presented at the conference. Special Interest Groups (SIGs) were provided small time slots for people to gather in special interest groups. As a result, a number of the groups have established ongoing networks and there are requests for more time at the next conference and for a form of infrastructure (perhaps through the IOHA website) for advertising SIG activities and issues. The SIGs formed at the conference were: archiving oral history, corporate history, environmental history, film and video, human rights and advocacy, independent practitioners, labor history, local and community history, migration and ethnicity, Indigenous memory, multimedia/digital storytelling, museums, oral history associations, performing arts, religious traditions, remembering war, reminiscence therapy, repression and violence, science and scientists, teaching and learning, and visual and creative arts.

Conference organizers Rosemary Block, Paula Hamilton and Janis Wilton were assisted by sponsorship and in kind support from a range of organizations and individuals. These included their own institutions which provided significant infrastructure support and each of which took on specific tasks: the State Library of NSW (http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au) hosted the Master Classes, the University of Technology Sydney (http://www.uts.edu.au) provided the venue, and the University of New England (http://www.une.edu.au) hosted the website and online conference database. http://www.arts.nsw.gov.au/

Translation of abstracts and other conference materials was achieved with the generous assistance of Oriana Acevedo, Rina Benmayor, Lidia Bilabatua, Pilar Dominguez, Pilar Folguerra, Juan José Gutiérrez, Demetrio Padillo, and Marisol Wunder. The overall running of the conference was achieved with the dedicated and voluntary work of members of OHAA, IOHAA and other supporters. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ABC Radio National will be producing a radio program of the conference. Keep an eye on the website at http://www.abc.net.au/rn . Other material can be found in On Tape (Newsletter of the Oral History Association of Australia Queensland Branch), September 2006. http://www.flexi.net.au/~mulligan/Newsletter.htm CDRom of conference papers available for AUD $15 plus postage and packaging.

Janis Wilton [email protected]

IOHA in Sydney: Perspectives from Argentina and Chile ARGENTINA

The International IOHA Conference, recently held in Sydney, Australia coincided with the 10th anniversary of the association. During this event, I observed the diversity, quality and relevance of the papers presented.

What is always surprising about the IOHA conference is the presence of topics considered “marginal” among mainstream historians in “normal” history accustomed to working exclusively with documents. I attended a diverse number of sessions, including those related to the political past, the transmission of beliefs, healing memories, natural disasters, the relation between memory and imagination, radio history and the representation of the past. I met researchers from India, New Zealand and Japan who, in all likelihood, would not have been able to attend a similar conference in Argentina. I also felt very much a part of Latin America and the Iberian world, thanks to the friendliness and support of my colleagues from Spain, Mexico, Guatemala and Brazil.

I would especially like to mention that the IOHA is privileged to be able to count among its members people such as Alexander Von Plato, (the association’s new vice-president) whose effort to integrate participants from diverse cultural background is especially appreciated. I can personally attest to this warmth: since the first IOHA conference I attended in Río de Janairo in 1998, I observed Alexander’s unwavering endeavour to communicate with his colleagues from all around the world, despite linguistic barriers. After attending several more IOHA events, I again witnessed this type of effort at the Sydney conference, especially in the efforts of Rosemary Block, Paula Hamilton and Janis Wilton. I can only extend my gratitude to these people.

A wonderful surprise was the session dedicated to the history of oral history. Although I sensed that Mexico’s important contribution to the subject had been omitted, it was extremely interestingly to listen to first hand accounts and descriptions of important issues relevant to our association. Finally, I would like to mention the progress that has been made in the conference’s organization. At the same time I would like to thank the City of Sydney and the State of New South Wales for hosting the event as well as for their general support and respect for bilingualism. More importantly, the event would not have been possible without the presence of the IOHA’s outgoing president and current council member, Rina Benmayor.

While these short notes could titled “An Argentine Woman in Sydney”, such a heading would be simultaneously chauvinistic, Argentine-centric and not entirely truthful. There were two Argentine women at the International Oral History Convention in Sydney. Vera Carnovale presented her research on “Morality and Religion in the Construction of the Revolution Workers Party-Revolutionary Army’s Identity” as did Graciela Browarnik, in a paper written with Laura Benadiba, titled “Halfway There: The Memories of Artist Activists in the Argentine Communist Party.” In my case, the IOHA grant committee generously covered my travel expenses. Without this assistance my participation in the conference would not have been possible. To everyone involved, thank you very much!

Graciela Browarnik [email protected]


Through the support of a travel grant received by the International Oral History Association I had the opportunity to participate in the XIV International Oral History Conference, “Dancing with Memory: Oral History and it Audience” in Sydney, Australia in June 2006. Here, I presented a paper titled “Oral history, the recovery of heritage games in the Magallanes region and their transmission in daycare centres.” I would like to highlight that this experience has been a very important part of my professional development. It is a topic that I would like to continue working with as I deeply identify with it. In Sydney, I enjoyed the high quality of the conference’s events, the warm welcome of the organisers and participants, the human level of communication and the cheerfulness of everyone present.

I also learnt a great deal about oral history and the resources and strategies that can be employed in approaching events in different settings. Of special interest were the strategies used to preserve events in the collective memory through photography and through storing information gathered through the protagonist’s oral testimonies. Through these strategies I have become especially motivated to unveil history. Currently, I am working on many projects, one of which I am currently writing entitled “Memories from another time” which looks into the games and toys of boys during the last period of salitre (potash or saltpeter) mining in northern Chile. This paper will be presented to the Oral History Congress being held in Panama next January. The conference program was comprehensive and interesting. A wide number of themes were covered in seminars, classes, plenary sessions, papers, special topic tutorials, theatre presentations and social awareness events. The conference’s opening ceremony offered a sample of Australian aboriginal culture and allowed conference participants to meet. As well, during the preparatory stages of the conference, there were continual updates concerning the process of selecting papers and travel grant application procedures. The organising committee helped with submitting papers, visa paperwork as well providing other useful information regarding participation in this event. Computer support was particularly helpful for establishing contacts and reducing geographic distances.

The organizing committee’s welcome was excellent and especially warm. It was clear that participants are as open as they are dedicated to oral history and to those human events which mark our lives. The common area, set aside for socializsing and for showcasing future projects, renewed my motivation towards the topic of oral tradition. Finally, I again wish to thank the International Association of Oral History (IOHA) for awarding me a travel grant which allowed me to attend this event and the conference’s organizing committee, especially Antonio Montenegro, Rina Benmayor, Janis Wilton, Rosie Block, Pilar Domínguez, Paula Hamilton and everyone from Latin America, Australia, New Zealand and others who I have been able to establish working ties and friendships with those who have encouraged me to continue working through this process.

Mirna Pizarro Morales [email protected]
Universidad de Magallanes, Punta Arenas, Chile


Revival of the Canadian Oral History Association

During a successful Canadian oral history conference in August 2004, historians at the University of Winnipeg initiated a revival of the Canadian Oral History Association (COHA). Historians, folklorists, and archivists had founded COHA during Canada’s first national oral history conference in 1974. It expanded successfully over the next ten to fifteen years, but drastic funding cutbacks by the federal and provincial governments hurt particularly one major backbone of the association, archivists. As a result, COHA lost much of its steam in the 1990s.

The situation is rapidly changing now. Co-chairs Alexander Freund and Nolan Reilly, secretary-treasurer Janis Thiessen, with the help of a group of enthusiastic local historians, archivists, and community activists, as well as oral history veterans from around the country, have taken on the responsibility of developing membership and raising Canadians’ awareness of oral history. A first result of this is COHA’s new website at http://www.canoha.ca. Still a work in progress, it has some attractive features: All back issues of Forum, the journal of COHA, are now available online–free access–in pdf-format. If you wish to receive the latest issue of Forum (volume 26, 2006), you can download a membership from the website and send it to the folks in Winnipeg.

Another feature of the website is the Guide to Oral History Collections in Canada. Available so far only in printed form, it is now a keyword-searchable database and serves as a powerful research tool. The most recent entries, however, are from 1993. Thus, a major project for the next year will be to update this guide.

Starting with the next volume in 2007, COHA plans to publish Forum as an online journal. This will allow authors to include excerpts from audio and video interviews and other documents. But the Winnipeg team does not focus solely on computer technology. We came to conclusion that we need to do some serious “consciousness raising.” Most Canadian academics have come to see oral history as merely a research method, but not as a means of democratizing history and changing the nature of historical inquiry and interpretation. Paradoxically, the use of oral history among academics and graduate students, school teachers, community activists, and legal advocates increased rapidly at the same time. More Canadians than ever are interested in and use oral history, but they are less and less connected with other oral historians around Canada and around the world. COHA’s main goal is to change that.

One way in which we have been trying to connect to members is by listserv. We moderate an email discussion list to keep our members informed of what we are doing and to hear from them what they would like COHA to do. Everyone is welcome to listen in and participate. Information is available on our website. Another way to further the cause of oral history in Canada–and it would seem to be useful for other countries as well–is to investigate the connections between oral history and oral tradition. We strive to create a dialogue between oral historians and those working with and on oral tradition. Through this initiative, we believe that COHA can not only learn from the world but return some of its insights.

Alexander Freund [email protected]
The University of Winnipeg


Voices from the War and Colonial Era: Oral History and War, Japan Oral History Association, 23-24 September 2006

In April 2005, the Historical Science Society of Japan, one of the nation’s largest historical associations, founded in 1932, held a special seminar on oral history. Once before, in 1988, the same society had reconsidered the value and position of oral history in Japan, and the results appeared in two books. The debate took place between the historians and a journalist who was doing research on the Japanese War atrocities in China, and a novelist who used a lot of historical records. Otherwise, oral history was largely ignored and remained stagnant. To address these issues, the Japan Oral History Association (JOHA) was set up

The 4th Conference of JOHA was successfully held at Tokyo University of Foreign Affairs, 23-24 September. It drew 138 people. The main theme this year was “War and the Colonial Era.” Symposium panelists were Professor Masanori Nakamura, a historian, three members of the Recording War-Experience Preserving Society (two of them being war veterans), and Mr. Higa Toyomitsu, of Okinawa (Ryu-kyu)War Experience Society. The symposium aimed to introduce the citizen’s movement to Reserve/Record War experience by audio-visual oral history. For many of the younger members of the audience, it was their first opportunity to “interview” actual war veterans. Two of the veterans and young volunteer member Junko Nakata explained their aim and activity. Prof. Nakamura , who has been discussing the value of oral history for more than thirty years at the Kanagawa Institute of Folklore Studies, introduced the “history of oral history” and his own research on Okinawa and Japanese women who were used as nurses by the Chinese Army during WWII, which led to a discussion of the ethics of oral history

Twenty-seven people read their papers, details of which are on the JOHA web site joha.jp (in English, one in Korean, two in German. one in Chinese!). The session were titled “Narratable /Un-narratable,” “Colonial Occupation: How Can We Use the Oral Evidence?” “Individual Memories/National histories,” and “Diversity of Oral History.” The discussions were very active. Needless to say, the papers covered both the oppressor and oppressed sides, for instance, the sexually assaulted colonized subjects, as well as the Japanese soldiers who spent the rest of their lives in mental hospitals because of post-traumatic-stress-syndrome, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Japanese-Koreans, the Korean leprosy subjects, and the soldiers who accepted the returnees from China. One veteran told his experience as a Dutch POW. All of the papers cast new light on WWII. They also dealt with other military subjects, such as German war veterans, and the conflicts in Northern Ireland and Cambodia. One of the paper presenter, Dr. Toru Shimizu, has been doing Oral History since 1979 years with Mexican Indigenous village Chamula. He also organized the Oral History Study Project in the Faculty of Economy, at Keio University, in Tokyo. Dr.Shimizu has recently joined JOHA, and hopes to bring members to IOHA Mexico conference and also to make more active link with Mexican Oral History Association.

Paper presenters at the JOHA meeting raged from 23 to 87 years of age. Both the growing interest in oral history and the research into war/colonial era gave us hope. JOHA will next meet at Nippon Women’s University in September 2007 and all are welcome.

Tomoyo Nakao [email protected]
with the support of Toru Simizu


National Oral History Association of New Zealand (NOHANZ): Te Kete Korero-a-Waha o Te Motu NOHANZ celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Planning is under way for the next conference which will be held in Wellington in mid-2007 where, to commemorate the anniversary, one of the themes will be the history of oral history in New Zealand. Details will be posted on the website: www.oralhistory.org.nz We are also organising a workshop for people who train oral historians which will be a mixture of presentations, group discussions and a general sharing of practices. NOHANZ has recently published Maori and Oral History which collects together all the articles published in Oral History in New Zealand either by Maori authors or on Maori topics. It has sold very well, and we have had to reprint it twice. See the website for more details. And we are always looking for papers for our refereed journal, Oral History in New Zealand. The closing date is mid-July each year. Contact Megan Hutching[email protected] or Anna Green [email protected] for more details.

Megan Hutching [email protected]
Secretary, NOHANZ


Oral History, Living History. First International Oral History Congress, 26-28 October 2006, University of Porto.

The First International Oral History Congress, organized by the Department of History of the University of Porto (Portugal), took place from the 26th to the 28th October 2006, in Porto, Portugal, with the theme: “Oral History, Living History.” Being the first in Portugal on this field of study, this Congress aimed to bring oral history to the Portuguese public’s attention by inviting the leading international and Portugese oral historians. The goal was to reflect on oral history in a scientific manner, reviewing its past trajectory, drawing upon recent developments, and evaluating its future. Over one hundred people attended, mostly Master of Arts students in contemporary history and the history of education, indicating a growing interest in oral history on the part of the Portuguese higher education community.

Eleven papers were presented by Pilar Dominguez, Paula Godinho, Federico Lorenz, Antonio Montenegro, Regina Neto, Robert Perks, Deolinda Pires, Alessandro Portelli, Jorge Rocha, Alistair Thomson, and Stephen Weiss. They reflected upon various issues related to oral history, including its evolution and current highlights, new technological arenas, specific contexts and practices in working with oral testimonies, theoretical and methodological approaches, and the different layers of socio-cultural remembrance.

Jorge Rocha, on behalf of the Portuguese section of the Museum of the Person, presented examples of Portuguese research projects through which the collection of testimonies brings together older people, schoolchildren, companies, and university researchers. Likewise, Deolinda Pires focused on a specific oral history project with a Portuguese company keen on preserving its employees’ memories. Paula Godinho, drawing upon her own research, explored the ways in which oral history was instrumental in examining an undocumented episode of Portuguese contemporary history.

Responding to Pilar Dominguez’ paper on the Spanish experience, those attending the Congress discussed the possible creation of the Portuguese Oral History Association. They agreed to keep a closer contact between Portuguese and international researchers who work with oral sources. On the last day, a crowded workshop was conducted by Antonio Montenegro and Regina Neto on the use of oral sources in historical research. The organizers, speakers, and other participants found this a most rewarding event on both the academic and personal level. The interest of the participants manifested itself in the dialogue established during the sessions and parallel conversations that took place throughout the event, making this a meeting point for sharing ideas and articulating projects and research methodologies. The Congress organizers were also most honored to count on the presence of Alistair Thomson, President of IOHA and other Council members. Hopefully, this Congress has given more visibility to oral history in Portugal and connected researchers using oral history interviews, integrating them into the existing international network. We are certainly looking forward to future events!

For further information, contact: Angela Campos [email protected]
Congress Organizing Committee


Oral History Association of South Africa Website

Formally constituted in October 2005, at a meeting in Johannesburg, the Oral History Association of South Africa has inaugurated its website: www.ohasa.org.za and invites oral historians to visit it and spread the word to their colleagues. The association held its third national conference in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, 7-10 November 2006. More than thirty were presented from all the provinces of South Africa and neighboring countries. The abstracts of the papers are posted on the OHASA website.

Philippe Denis [email protected]


Accomplished Past, Challenging Future: Kentucky Oral History Commission thirtieth anniversary program, Louisville, Kentucky, 8-9 September 2006

To mark its thirtieth anniversary, the Kentucky Oral History Commission held a conference and workshop in Louisville that showcased the diverse oral history that the commission has sponsored over the years and brought together many prominent oral historians who have been associated with its work. Former directors Kim Lady Smith and Doug Boyd organized the program, which included panel discussions on how the practice of oral history has evolved over the past three decades. Speakers included Alessandro Portelli, Charles Morrissey, Rebecca Sharpless, John Neuenschwander, and Anne and Don Ritchie.

Since 1976 the state-funded Commission has awarded more than 450 grants to individuals, universities, and community organizations that have resulted in the collection of an estimated 25,000 interviews. Among its major projects are the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky Project, which produced 200 interviews and a documentary film, “Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Other projects have dealt with family farming, Appalachian history, community history, and Kentucky authors.visit its oral history database at www.kyhistory.gov

Generational Links: Confronting the Past, Understanding the Present, Planning the Future, Oral History Association, Little Rock, Arkansas, 25-29 October 2006

In 1957 the U.S. government sent troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to carry out court-ordered desegregation of the city’s main public high school. Angry crowds had gathered outside the school, and the state’s governor had used the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African-American students from entering the all-white school. Almost fifty years later, two of the students who integrated Little Rock’s Central High School, participated in the annual Oral History Association meeting, sharing their reminiscences of that pivotal events, and their assessment of the movement for racial equality in the United States. The largest share of sessions dealt with matters of race, ethnicity, civil rights, and social justice in the American South. The program also featured several sessions on recording oral histories of Hurricane Katrina and its affect on the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

This meeting celebrated the association’s fortieth anniversary, and included commentary on the history of oral history and the evolution of the Oral History Association. Held near the new William J. Clinton Presidential Library, the conference program also included sessions on presidential and congressional oral history projects, and a report on oral histories gathered about the disputed vote in Florida during the presidential election of 2000.

Don Ritchie [email protected]