what is oral History?

What is Oral History?

Do you have a story to tell about your past, or an aspect of your life, that you would like to pass on to future generations?  Would you want this to be recorded – in your own words – and have it kept for posterity? This is oral history. Australian author and eminent oral historian, Beth Rees, in theOral History Handbook (published by the Oral History Association of Australia), defines oral history as being “a picture of the past in people’s own words.”

It is generally accepted in oral history practice that recordings are of individuals with a sound background or knowledge of a subject with historical importance. It is also important that the interviewer – the person conducting the interview – has a fair understanding of the subject topic.  In an oral history, the interviewee is the hero of the story, the main character, if you like.  The job of the oral historian, the interviewer (that’s where we come in) is to bring life to the main character, to draw out the memories so that the character and what he or she has to say lives on.

The genealogy industry - discovering our ancestors - is, according to the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/money/us-money-blog/2014/jun/19/ancestors-genealogy-high-cost-money, a billion-dollar business in the United States, and is a burgeoning industry here in Australia.  It seems we all want to find out a little more about the people who came before us.  It would have been so much easier had they left recorded memories – in their voice - for access by future generations, be they family members or academics.  Luckily, through advances in digital technology, and the institutions where they are stored, many thousands of individuals with historically relevant stories have been recorded and their stories readily accessible.

If you are searching for information about an individual’s past, then the best place to start is the National Library of Australia https://www.nla.gov.au/what-we-collect/oral-history-and-folklore.

At On the Record, the focus is on the individual, and not necessarily on a particular subject area, we are more about the person, and less about a topic.  If the question is recollections of dear old Uncle Joe, then the subject is the focus!  Click here to find out more