Oral History Archives



SBW/NIDA Archive and Performing Arts Collection Oral History Project, Sydney


The National Institute of Dramatic Art, Australia’s foremost performing arts training institution, whose graduates include Mel Gibson and Cate Blanchett, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2009. Since 2004, in association with the Seaborn, Broughton and Walford Foundation, classification and preservation of the Institute’s records, together with those of initiatives developed by NIDA including the Old Tote Theatre Company (1963-1978) and Jane St experimental Theatre (1966-1982), has been underway. The SBW Foundation has contributed not only a wealth of theatrical memorabilia and manuscripts, but also its major collection of Australia-wide theatre programs and press cuttings, many of which have been donated or transferred from the former Denis Wolanski Library at the Sydney Opera House which closed in 1996. Together, the material now housed in the Archive at Alexandria, Sydney, represents a significant resource which can be accessed through the collection’s Research Centre.

In April 2005, with special support from Lady Vincent Fairfax, the Oral History Project began to record interviews with actors, directors, designers, teachers and other arts practitioners. The aim is to illuminate, through personal accounts, the written and photographic archive material and three dimensional stage memorabilia such as costumes, masks, puppets and headwear held in the collection. It is hoped current students and researchers will gain insight and understanding into creative processes through these accounts of the experiences of those who have contributed to Australia’s cultural heritage. Detailed research on each interview subject’s career is undertaken before the interview and extensive use is made of the collection to prompt memory and to encourage focused observations on productions, rehearsals and working methods, audience response, career progress and the subject’s unique qualities as a performer, director or teacher.

To date thirty-two interviews have been recorded onto CD-R, comprising approximately 110 hours. The oldest subject was born in 1913, the youngest in 1948. It is hoped twenty interviews will be researched and recorded each year and that some of the recorded material will be used for NIDA’s 50th birthday celebration exhibition. Most of the research and interviews are conducted by Dr Margaret Leask, but some specialist researchers and interviewers are engaged depending on the subject’s field of work. At present transcripts are not available for all interviews and some are subject to restriction, but most are available for research purposes and copies can be provided on request. For a list of interview subjects, dates, length of recordings, access and other information, please contact Dr Leask. The Archive and Performing Arts Collection is still in its very early stages but it is hoped that from 2008 the NIDA website (www.nida.edu.au) will contain finding aids and details of the Oral History Project.

Margaret Leask [email protected].



The Centre for Popular Memory Online Archive, Cape Town


Do you think archives are dusty, dark, basements filled with musty, old books and librarians? Well, if you visit the Centre for Popular Memory (CPM) online archive you might be surprised.

The Centre for Popular Memory in Cape Town, South Africa has an archive of over 2100 hours of audio and video, collected over the last 21 years. For us digitization and archiving are ways to preserve but also celebrate the living history of people living in this country.

The online archive houses digital copies of our material. All metadata is entered in a customized Dublin Core (DCQ) structure and public access is possible through our website www.popularmemory.org. Through this portal researchers can view and download all online material in the form of PDF’s (for first language and translated transcripts, logs, images and collection entries). The second level includes the entry of streamed audio and video. While the development of digital solutions, such as CD ROM and streaming audio are ways to increase traffic to our archive, this runs in tandem with increasing the presence of people’s stories outside the archive walls.

This online archive was officially launched in March 2007. Within the next year all material with the relevant copyright agreements will be placed online. The Centre for Popular Memory is located at the University of Cape Town (UCT), in the Beattie Building, Ground Floor, Room 116-119. Telephone: (021) 650 4758 Fax: (021) 689 7581 mail:[email protected] or visit our Web site at: www.popularmemory.org



A forradalom emlékezete. Személyes történelem (Recollection of Revolution. Personal history), compiled from Oral History Archive interviews by Adrienne Molnár, Zsuzsanna Korösi and Márkus Keller, Budapest: 1956 INSTITUTE, 2006.


This collection of over a thousand interviews in the Oral History Archive, founded 25 years ago in Budapest, is an unparalleled source of private history from the recent past. The book coincided with the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which it aimed to capture and convey through narratives and memoirs of participants. The eyewitness accounts included complement and illuminate each other. There are statements from people in all groups and institutions that historians see as major factors: the workers’ councils, revolutionary committees, reform communist intelligentsia, street fighters, university students, and revived political parties. Alongside accounts of people in Budapest are many excerpts that cover important provincial events, often from people who have seldom or never spoken out before. Rather than fulsome narrative accounts, these are micro-histories, a mosaic of ’56 that is more ambiguous, but more authentic as well.

The book begins in spring 1956, as more and more people were feeling that change had to come. Nor does the story of the revolution—rebellion, fighting, then a few days of victory—end on November 4 with the return of Soviet forces. It was months before János Kádár, helped to power by the Soviets, could feel his administration was secure. So the book extends to May 1, 1957, by which time many had left the country, the rearguard actions had died down, and people had been intimidated by arrests and reprisals. The revolution is shown through many people in many different lights. The extracts come chronologically, but in a multi-linear, not a linear form. There was not one revolution, but many at one time, sometimes in harmony and sometimes in dispute.

The variety also applies to the interviewees. It is significant what political background and direction people had, whether they came from a position of power or one of persecution, or had awoken to awareness for the first time in the summer of 1956. Nor is social background immaterial, or which side they supported in the uprising. The result is a myriad of ’56 histories, yet surprisingly often, they spoke in chorus and created a harmony among themselves, despite widely different, even opposing values and viewpoints. The differences in the reactions and narratives are increased because some interviews were made before the change of system in 1989–90—under semi-legal conditions, when remembering ’56 was not without its dangers—and because of the demand for ’56 and ’56-ers fluctuated after the change of system. Another differentiating factor is that interviewees were at various stages in their lives when they spoke, which affected what they saw as significant in their role in the revolution.

This compilation provides a chance for everyone, through the reminiscences of participants, to think the revolution through and perhaps arrive at a more dispassionate, sincere assessment of ’56 itself.

Zsuzsanna Korosi [email protected]
Markus Keller [email protected]

Life as the River Flows: Women in the Malayan Anti-Colonial Struggle, interviews and introduction by Agnes Khoo, United Kingdom: THE MERLIN PRESS Ltd, 2007.

This account is based on the oral histories given to Agnes Khoo by sixteen women from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, of the part played by women in the 40-year guerrilla war fought by the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). The war, which finally ended in 1989 with the Haadyai Peace Agreement between the CPM and the governments of Malaysia and Thailand, was a phase in a longer anti-colonial struggle that had begun under the British regime and gained strength during the Japanese occupation. Many of the women were from poor backgrounds, both Chinese and Malay, and their accounts describe not only their lives in the jungle, but the reasons they joined the guerrillas, and the difficulties some experienced in adjusting to a new life after the fighting ended. Many of the CPM veterans now live in ‘peace villages’ in southern Thailand.

Agnes Khoo speaks Mandarin Chinese, English and Dutch. She has been an NGO researcher and is now a PhD student at the University of Manchester. About her work, Professor Sheila Rowbotham has written: “Agnes Khoo has brought us not only a series of poignant and moving life stories; she has opened a path back to a forgotten history. Her book ensures that the traces of so much heroism and hope will not be covered over by the indifference of time.”

Memories and Reflections: Documenting a Nation’s History through Oral History–The Singapore Experience, Singapore: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE, 2007.

In 1979, an oral history program was established in the National Archives and Records Centre to document, preserve and disseminate the social memories of Singapore through recorded interviews with people from all walks of life. Since then, the collection has grown to about 16,000 hours, totaling about 3,150 interviewees. The collection is extensive not only in terms of subject and content, but also in the variety of languages and Chinese dialects (used widely in Singapore) recorded, although interviews conducted in English form the majority. Besides augmenting our collection, the OHC actively disseminates oral history by deploying interviews for different purposes, such as audio-visual presentations, exhibitions, plays and publications on various aspects of our nation’s history.

Over the years, the OHC has evolved from being merely a collector and repository of oral history recordings to taking a serious self re-assessment of its role. The OHC regularly conducts seminars and workshops on the oral history methodology, and provides advice to schools and organizations interested in this field. In 1988, it published its first handbook Oral History Manual to guide those interested in organizing oral history projects, particularly school teachers and community groups to conduct and build up personal and institutional memories via oral history. With changing technology and renewed mission of the OHC, a new edition entitled Memories and Reflections: Documenting a Nation’s History through Oral History–The Singapore Experience has just been published in February 2007. The new edition comprehensively addresses issues and problems associated with using oral history as an information source and also details the key work processes including research planning, project and interview design, selection of recording equipment, interview techniques, transcribing, documentation, preservation, and finally dissemination and usage. It is not only a useful guide, but also tells the story of the work of the OHC since 1979.

Memories and Reflections is on sale now at $18.90 a copy. To purchase a copy of the publication, go to www.a2o.com.sg or e-mail [email protected].

Imagining The City: Memories and Cultures in Cape Town, Edited by Sean Field, Renate Meyer and Felicity Swanson, Capetown: HSRC PRESS, 2007.

Cape Town, like cities all over the world, brings together people from vastly different backgrounds. And, like other cities, it evokes a diverse range of feelings which reflect the experiences and memories of the people who live in it. As a port city, it has facilitated the flow of travelers from both the East and West for centuries. Its history includes periods of slavery and colonial rule, and more recently, racial apartheid government policies. Its geography features some of the most breathtaking natural beauty in the world. Since 1994 Cape Town has been in a process of political, social and economic transformation. But as a result of its painful legacies, contemporary Cape Town remains ambiguously a culturally diverse and divided city.

Imagining the City: Memories and Cultures in Cape Town presents an array of oral and visual histories drawn from people who live, work and creatively express themselves in the city. Researched, written and produced by the staff and students of the Centre for Popular Memory (CPM) at the University of Cape Town, it aims to show that Cape Town is so much more than its physical infrastructure, or the clichés people use to describe it. The book reinforces neither the glossy tourist brochure image of the multicultural city nor the ahistorical descriptions of Cape Town as a violent, racist and un-African city. The chapters showcase the experience of the not-famous, the men and women who interact with the city at different times and places. In the process, it explores the significance of popular imagination in shaping memories, identities and agency.

Imagining the City presents oral texts and interpretations in a manner which mirrors stories and images back to the citizens of Cape Town, drawing on a range of academic disciplines including history, literature, art, music, sociology and psychology. Chapters deal, for the most part, with the historical legacy of apartheid, but also extend analysis beyond the critical post-apartheid movement of 1994. There is no single conceptual lens used to interpret the city, nor a historical chronology. Rather, through the words of musicians and Muslim cooks, bomb blast survivors and hip hop heads, migrants and macho rugby players, the city is made and unmade in people’s imagination.

Imagining the City is not only relevant to academic debates but also refers to ongoing contestations over city governance and identity. As it transforms itself, Cape Town needs to imagine and re-imagine its own culturally diverse way. The kaleidoscope of memories and experiences that make up this book, signifying aspirations and belongings, as well as displacement and dispossession, are a part of this process. With its accessible text, fascinating array of subjects, and empathetic presentation, Imagining the City makes an important contribution to public discourse about a vision for, and ownership of, the city of Cape Town.

Copies of all of HSRC Press published titles are available from leading booksellers nationally, and from the online bookshop at www.hsrcpress.ac.za

Curating Oral Histories: From Interviews to Archives, by Nancy MacKay, Walnut Creek, Calif.: LEFT COAST PRESS , 2007

This book bridges the gap between those who conduct oral histories and those who care for them by covering rights management, archival processing, cataloging, preservation, and access. The book also faces the hard questions that come up regarding legal and ethical issues, recording technology, allocation of resources, and preservation. MacKay guides readers, step by step, to make the oral history archives ready, offering planning strategies and providing links to the most current information in this rapidly evolving field. MacKay lays out clear guidelines for current oral histories and explores possibilities digital technology provides.

MacKay very correctly makes the point that, while the focus often is placed on creating oral histories, there has not been enough discussion about caring for the materials once they have been created. This manuscript takes the complex archival and curatorial issues involved in caring for the materials and puts them into easy-to-understand language. In doing so, it helps not only archivists and curators, but oral historians working in all steps of the oral history process.

The price is US $24.95 (paperback) and $59.00 (cloth). It can be ordered at http://www.lcoastpress.com/book.php?id=33.

Barbara W. Sommer [email protected]

New Oral Histories Published in Brazil:

Lúcia Lippi de Oliveira (ed.). Nós e Eles: Relaciones culturales entre brasileiros e inmigrantes. Fundação Getúlio Vargas. n.d.
Marieta de Moraes Ferreira (ed.). João Goulart: Entre la memória y la história. Fundação Getúlio Vargas. n.d.
Dulce Whitaker e Thelma Velôso (coord.). Oralidade e Subjetividade: Los meandros infinitos de la memória Campina Grande: EDUEP, 2005.
Lucilia de Almeida Neves Delgado (coord.). FAPEMIG 20 anos: a construção do futuro. PUC-Minas e UFMG /Autêntica Editora, 2006.

These books can be ordered by writing to [email protected]. Luiz Simões Lopes: fragmentos de memória, This tribute to the philosophy of the Fundación Getulio Vargas can be ordered by contacting www.cpdoc.fgv.br/producao_intelectual.


Entre-Vistas: Journal of History, Anthropology and Oral Sources HAFO ( Historia; Antropología y Fuentes Orales). Number 37.

Condemnation and Opacity

The Workforce of a Ford Plant (Cork, Ireland), Miriam Nyhan

Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Leaders of the Black Movement, Verena Alberti & Amilcar Araujo Pereira

Forced Labor for the Third Reich, Christoph Thonfeld

Soft and Hard Times., Gaspar Mairal

Urban Memory and Her Opacity, Maurice Halbwachs & José Antonio G. Alcantud


Dramatizing the Interview. Annotated Scripts, Jeff Friedman

The Return of Sybila, Claudia Castro

Militant Artists of the Argentine Communist Party, Graciela Browarnik & Laura Benadiba

An Interviewer, Eugenia Meyer

Body and Memory

Body: Sign and Field of Contradiction, Franco Ferrarotti

The Past in the Present. Literature, Memory and History, Roger Chartier

Thirty years ago in Bologna

Against Invented tradition: An example from Zambia, Gwyn Prins

Oral Tradition, Oral History: Achievements and Perspectives,. Jan Vansina Past

Reconstruction and Oral Tradition in Ghana, Jack Goody

Through this newsletter I am please to announce that the First Central American Conference of Oral Historians and the Third International Conference will take place in Nicaragua in March 2009, hosted by the Univesidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua UNAN Managua de Nicaragua. Plan to invite your students—our future colleagues —so that we put together panels on their research. We will soon provide more information through this newsletter.

I would also like to take this opportunity to invite you to subscribe to our Revista de Historia y Ciencias Sociales. We also welcome submission. In an upcoming edition, we will be publishing six articles related to oral history and written by professionals from different Latin American countries. The subscription rate is $10 and is payable through a bank transfer to the Banco de la Producción (BANPRO), account number 100-324-040-690-24. The subscription covers two issues per year.

Jilma Romero [email protected][email protected]
Research Professor, UNAN- Managua, Nicaragua

Oral History, Vol. 35, no12, Spring 2007


Broken Bonds and Divided Memories: Wartime Massacres Reconsidered in a Comparative Perspective, Riki Van Boeschoten

The Siege of Leningrad as Sacred Narrative: Conversations with Survivors, James Clapperton

Breaking the Silence: Traumatised War Veterans and Oral History, Alison Parr

Hard Man, New Man: Re/Composing Masculinities in Glascow, C. 1950-2000, Hilary Young

“Men Don’t Wear Velvet You Know!”: Fashionable Gay Masculinity and the Shopping Experience, London 1950-Early 1970s, Clare Lomas

Oral History in Historical Archeology: Excavating Sites of Memory, Gabriel Moshenska

The Truth Will Set Us All Free: National Reconciliation, Oral History and the Conspiracy of Silence, Peter Read

All the articles are abstracted on the Oral History Society website: http://www.oralhistory.org.ukOral History Review, Vol 33, no 2, Summer/Fall 2006


“The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s?” : The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Struggle for Racial Justice, Richard L. Hughes

Recovering a “Lost” Story Using oral History: The United States Supreme Court’s Historic Green v. New Kent County, Virginia, Decision, Jody Allen and Brian Daugherty

Finding Our Place: Reconstructing Community Through Oral History, Mary Ann Villarreal

From Farm to Factory: Transitions to Work, Gender, and Leisure at Banning Mill, 1910-1930s, Teresa Beyer-Sherwood