The State Library collects and preserves the oral history of Western Australia in its oral history collection.
The State Library's oral history collection consists of some 14,000 hours of tape representing interviews with over 7,000 Western Australians. It is the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind in any Australian State Library and the major archival repository for oral histories in Western Australia.
The collection consists primarily of audio tape-recorded, structured interviews in which interviewees talk about their lives or particular events and experiences in the past. There are stories of war, migration, personal and family relationships, mining, droving, prevailing social attitudes and farm life. Interviews in the collection span over 130 years of memories and many are with people born in the 19th Century - the earliest was born in 1863.
The major strength of the collection is in interviews with Western Australians sharing their everyday lives and representing a wide range of employment groups, social backgrounds, ethnic communities, lifestyles and experiences. Areas of strength in the collection include writers, pastoralists and graziers, parliamentarians, nurses, business people and community leaders, as well as topics as diverse as fisheries and whaling, land settlement schemes, aviation, music and dance. Regional strengths are mainly in areas where local oral history groups are, or have been, active including Albany, Bunbury, Busselton, Collie, Subiaco, Harvey, Geraldton, City of Swan and Port Hedland.
At present, the State Library is involved in cooperative projects with other institutions such as the National Library of Australia and the Parliament of Western Australia, to interview prominent Western Australians of national interest and parliamentarians respectively. The State Library actively seeks donations of individual interviews and collections from others involved in the field.
Highlights of the Oral History CollectionWith over 7,000 interviews with Western Australians from varying walks of life and on so many different topics, it is impossible to showcase all of them here. The following highlights illustrate the collection's coverage :
- Interviews with Indigenous people
- Interviews with Authors
- Interviews with Women
- Interviews with Parliamentarians
- Interviews with Immigrants
Access to the CollectionMany of the interviews have transcripts (some with comprehensive indexes) while most of the rest have a synopsis of content. Users of the collection can listen to the interview on cassette tape while reading the transcript. Transcripts may be requested through a public library on inter-library loan. Extracts from transcripts can usually be photocopied under conditions similar to those of published books but the State Library's permission, and often the interviewee's, is required for publication. Some tapes and transcripts are subject to special conditions and may not be available for use without permission from the interviewee.
Access to the oral history collection is through the State Library Catalogue. The State Library is grateful to the Oral History Association of Australia (Western Australian Branch) for its assistance in placing the collection on-line. You can also access materials using a Subject Oral History Reference Guide available in the Battye Library. The State Library's oral history collections and collections in other states of Australia may be accessed from the National Library of Australia's Oral History Collection website.
Do it Yourself Oral History
The Battye Library has produced a tape entitled How to Interview for Family History by Ronda Jamieson, which is available for use in the Battye Library or for purchase. A kit on interviewing for family history purposes (Young, Old and In Between), is also available for use or purchase. Books on producing and using oral history are also available and can be found in the State Library Catalogue.
Oral History Association
The Oral History Association of Australia was formed in 1978 and there are branches in every state. The objectives of the Oral History Association are:
- to promote the practice and methods of oral history
- to educate in the use of oral history methods
- to encourage discussion in all aspects of oral history
- to foster the preservation of oral history records.
State and national conferences include discussions about oral history projects and issues such as ethics, recording technology and copyright. For more information visit the Oral History Association of Australia (Western Australian Branch) website.
Page last updated: Thursday 21 April 2011