Oral History and Sound Recordings

Prior to the establishment of the oral history program in 1991, the Mitchell Library had been receiving oral history and sound recordings for some years. Usually these recordings were a part of a larger collection of papers. Some dedicated oral history projects had been acquired as well.

After 1991 the Library became pro-active in seeking material to add to the oral history collection.

The Original Material Branch continues to collect oral history material through donation, purchase or assisted by the Federal Government's cultural gifts program.

Scope of the collections

Oral history in this Library documents the lives of people living in New South Wales. It frequently complements the written record and may expand it further. It also gives a voice to those who may previously have been denied the chance to contribute to the written or printed recording of history. The recording by an informed interviewer of people's experiences provides insights into society, not only to its history, but changing values and attitudes.

Collection strengths include:

  • The New South Wales bicentennial oral history project where some 200 people were interviewed about their memories of the first 30 years of the twentieth century.
  • The Ethnic Affairs Commission oral history project comprising interviews conducted with migrants who arrived in Australia in the early 1950s.
  • The Sydney Maritime Museum oral history project (now Sydney Heritage Fleet), where over 100 interviewees speak of their maritime lives around Sydney Harbour. They include boat builders, captains, pilots, cabin boys, yachtsmen (including the first all-women crew to sail in the Sydney to Hobart race). This project is on-going.
  • The Sydney Harbour Bridge builders interviewed 50 years after the Bridge was opened.
  • The Holroyd Senior Citizens project where over 100 interviewees give their life stories.
  • Interviews with members of the Communist Party of Australia.
  • The Institution of Engineers oral history project which is also on-going.
  • Corporate histories including projects with employees of Colgate-Palmolive, Bonds Industries and Woolworths Limited.
  • Interviews with members of the Jewish community by historian Suzanne Rutland.
  • Interviews with early women scientists.
  • Siobhan McHugh's interviews with employees on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.
  • Sound recordings include the Harold Park Hotel poetry readings and the annual Bloomsday readings of James Joyce's Ulysses and the Writers' Festival during the period that they were held at the State Library.

Contact us for further information.

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NSW 2000, Australia
Tel: (02) 9273 1414

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