Welcome to the final REWIND for 2017
As has been said several times, 2017 has been a busy year, with the Committee wonderfully led by the former OHV President, Alistair Thomson, now the President of OHA but luckily for us, also the Vice President of OHV to whom we say:
At this year’s AGM, after serving in the role for the past three years, Alistair Thomson stood down as OHV President, as constitutionally required. In his outgoing report, Al acknowledged the contributions of fellow committee members, as he has generously done each year. In turn, those who have worked with him on committee over this period would now like to take the opportunity to thank him personally for his own very considerable efforts during this time, and to alert all OHV members to the breadth of his achievements as their President.
A glance at Al’s annual reports over this three year term would quickly highlight for members the giant steps the Association has taken under his stewardship, but it is worth drawing attention to some of them again here:
- Under Al’s encouragement and through his extensive networking skills, he has helped recruit new people to fill specific roles on the OHV committee. As he put it, these committee members “…combine a wide range of oral history experience: from family and community history, from professional history and public history institutions, and from the academic world.” The composition of the committee has changed over the past three years but all its members have learned from and enjoyed the experience of working under Al’s leadership.
- Al has been the driver behind the creation and/ or expansion of a lively calendar of events, including the consolidation and regular scheduling of introductory and advanced training workshops; the hosting of public lectures, seminars and masterclasses with internationally-renowned oral historians; the continuation of an annual mid-year symposium providing opportunities for members to present or workshop their latest projects under specified themes; the introduction of two new OHV awards and incorporation of awards presentations by short listed candidates at the annual AGM evening; the first Oral History Exhibition and Members’ Showcase; the introduction and hosting of a regular OHV Ideas and Skills Exchange; and the provision of bursaries to assist selected OHV members in their efforts to attend interstate conferences.
- To help in the promotion of events and news dissemination, Al has overseen and actively assisted plans to improve OHV’s social media platforms, including a major makeover of the Association’s website – so that it is now more attractive, affordable, manageable and effective – and the lively OHV Facebook site.
Al leaves the OHV Presidency at a time when the Association is in arguably ruddy good health – enjoying a robust financial state, boosted membership numbers, and a more efficient event and membership management system – no coincidence there! But the Association remains a small organisation, run entirely by volunteer effort, and can ill afford to lose officials of Al’s calibre if it is to maintain or improve its momentum and reach. Fortunately, Al will continue to assist the committee, serving as Vice President in the coming year, and we remain indebted to him for this and, again, for all he has contributed to OHV in recent years. And no resting on laurels needless to say. Readers of REWIND need look no further than the last edition for news of some of his plans for new project activity in the coming year. Watch this space!
Enjoy and Season’s Greetings
NB: The online version has been edited. Click here to download a PDF of the more comprehensive version emailed to members.
As a follow up to Al’s First thoughts in the October Rewind the project proposal printed here, an example of his energy and vision, warrants some serious discussion and support:
SAVE OUR STORIES – FUTURE-PROOFING AUSTRALIA’S ORAL HISTORY HERITAGE
Summary: Thoughts on establishing a project to ensure the long-term preservation of Australian oral history interviews, and to provide guidance for oral history projects and archives to ensure that future interviews have the best chance for preservation, access and use.
Alistair Thomson, President of Oral History Australia and Professor of History, Monash University
draft 3 at 22 November 2017 (revised after consideration at Oral History Australia committee)
WHY DO WE NEED THIS PROJECT?
- Australia’s rich oral history heritage is at risk. Analogue recordings (reel to reel, cassette and so on) are slowly dying. Digital recordings (and digitised copies of analogue interviews) are also at risk unless they are held by institutions that have the expertise, resources and stability to future-proof those recordings as digital media and platforms evolve. The great irony of the digital revolution is that the most robust element of an oral history interview is often the paper-based transcript that can survive for millennia. Oral history’s great achievements to date – in recording life stories from individuals and groups who might not otherwise be in the historical record, and in capturing Australian voices – is endangered.
- Only the major state and national archives, libraries and museums have the expertise, resources and stability to future-proof oral history recordings in the digital age. Those major institutions are already dealing with the significant challenge of digitising and future-proofing their own collections. Outside those major institutions, Australian oral history interviews and collections – dating from the mid-twentieth century – are scattered across the country, in local history societies and museums, in university offices and computers, with professional historians and media organisations, in community projects and archives. Most of those oral history collections are at risk.
- Many of the oral history collections outside the major archives are not readily accessible via internet-based search engines because they are inadequately archived and catalogued. Research at every level – and thus scholarly and community understanding of Australia’s past and its significance in people’s lives and memories – is significantly diminished by this inability to locate, access and use relevant oral history source material.
- Many oral history interviews are created without appropriate guidance about recording, documentation, copyright, preservation and access standards, and with no common facility to catalogue project details and facilitate preservation and access where appropriate. The preservation and use of such recordings in the future is not assured.
SOME RELEVANT BACKGROUND INFORMATION
- In 1997 the National Library of Australia (NLA), with funding from the ‘Towards Federation 2001 Project’ and support from key national and state oral history stakeholders, published Australia’s Oral History Collections: A National Directory. That project, and the publication, provides a model and a starting point for the proposed project, including baseline information about oral history collections extant in the mid-1990s. Colleagues at NLA agree that recreating a printed Directory is no longer feasible or appropriate, and suggest that a better alternative might be to enhance access to oral history collections via Trove (perhaps including the introduction of a Trove ‘Oral History’ portal).
- In Britain a major project coordinated by the British Library (BL) – ‘Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’ – has recently raised 18.8 million pounds to create a network of ten regional sound preservation centres (‘hubs’) which aim to work with the BL to save up to half a million recordings that ‘are threatened by physical degradation or stored on formats that can no longer be played’ (Rob Perks, BL Curator of Oral History, Oral History 45, 2, 2017, p 7). We can learn from the British experience – while noting that their project has the advantage of Heritage Lottery funding and is wider in scope (including the widest range of sound recordings, from wildlife to music as well as oral history).
- Across Australia a number of organisations (local councils, public library networks, local history libraries etc) have begun mapping oral history collections within their remit and providing training in digitisation and preservation. These local organisations will be key stakeholders in any plan for future-proofing oral history, but their capacity and effectiveness will be enhanced by national and state planning, coordination and resourcing.
- Following initial exploratory discussions with senior colleagues at the National Library and State Library Victoria, and with the Oral History Australia committee, my sense is that National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) might be the most appropriate organisational structure to initiate and perhaps manage the proposed project. We might propose that NSLA establish a ‘Project’ scoping/working group with representatives from the national and state libraries and other key stakeholders (such as National Film and Sound Archive, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Australian War Memorial, national and state museums, the ABC, Australian Historical Association, Royal Australian Historical Society (representing local history societies), Oral History Australia and University sector). Whether or not invite NZ participation is to be seen – my hunch is that would be too ambitious and that we might simply share ideas with NZ colleagues.
HOW THIS PROJECT MIGHT GET STARTED
- Invite NSLA to establish a Save Our Stories – Oral History ‘Project’ scoping/working group
- Liaise with stakeholders and develop a national plan and funding bids.
- Raise the necessary funds from federal and state/territory government, national and state institutions, the Australian Research Council (infrastructure funding), philanthropic trusts.
A FUNDED PROJECT MIGHT COMPRISE SEVERAL STAGES (bear in mind I’m not an archivist so this is a very rough guide!)
- Create a national coordinating committee, and state and territory coordinating committees
- Employ a national coordinator and state & territory teams (based in state / territory libraries) with oral history research, archive and IT expertise.
- Identify oral history interview collections (audio and video) outside major state and national collections
- Record essential details for each oral history interview collection, including location, content, format, access conditions, other metadata.
- Identify priority collections for preservation by, or in association with, major national and state archival institutions (at least one such institution in each state and territory).
- Develop protocols and systems for such preservation
- Support preservation of priority collections
- Create oral history guidance materials about recording, documentation, copyright, preservation and access
- Create an archiving template (detailing technical details, content, access conditions) for oral history projects to use for their own purposes, but also to facilitate prospective archival preservation of the recordings by an appropriate state or national repository.
- Identify a workable future plan to sustain and update guidance information and preservation systems and protocols, in perpetuity.
- Circulation of this draft to state and territory oral history association committees for discussion and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Initiation of discussions with NSLA
The following is one of Alistair’s publications that many of you may find interesting:
In this video Alistair Thomson (Professor of History, Monash University) introduces an extraordinary new resource for school and university teaching in Australian history and Australian studies. The Australian Lives ebook curates access into one of Australia’s largest online oral history collections, so that students can read – and listen – to 50 Australians born between 1920 and 1989 talking about their personal histories across the past century, in every corner of the country, from childhood through to old age, and ranging across themes such as migration, faith, place, work, school, play, family, love, sex or politics.
In this video oral historian Alistair Thomson introduces you to the Australian Lives ebook, which enables readers to be listeners to the hundreds of oral history extracts in the book, and which curates access into one of Australia’s largest online oral history collections. Al demonstrates the extraordinary technology that made the book possible and which brings oral histories alive on the page and in the archive.
Awards and Events
At the recent AGM OHV was pleased to present the winners of the OHV Innovation Awards 2017
Awards and commendations issued in two categories:
COMMUNITY INNOVATION AWARD
WINNER: Stephanie Arnold (freelance cellist, in collaboration with Dr Robert Davidson, and interviewees), Across the Water
EDUCATION INNOVATION AWARD
WINNER: Way Back When Consulting Historians, History Detectives: Mornington Peninsula Oral History Intergenerational Project
Fitzroy History Society, The Life and Times of Fitzroy from 1960s
Martin Richardson, Paynesville Neighbourhood Centre, Paynesville Memories
Thinking forward: Events in early 2018 for your diary
Skills Exchange Support Group
Tuesday, 20 February 2018
5:30pm @ The Moat
Discuss your oral history project’s challenges and successes with other oral historians. All welcome and no need to book. Hosted by Al Thomson.
Oral History Introductory Workshop
Saturday, 17 March 2018
Learn the basics of how to do oral history, from consent forms to audio files. Tickets on sale in early 2018. Hosted by Sarah Rood.
Oral History Advanced Workshop
Saturday, 7 April 2018
This workshop offers oral history practitioners the opportunity use their own interviews as a basis for interrogation of method and results by other experienced oral historians, in a supportive environment. More information about this workshop will be provided in early 2018.
Call for Expressions of Interest: Oral History Australia Conference Program Committee
The next Oral History Australia biennial conference will be in Queensland in 2019. Working alongside the Queensland OHA Conference Committee (responsible for all local arrangements) will be an OHA National Conference Program Committee which will be responsible for developing the call for papers, reviewing proposals and developing the program. The OHA National Conference Program Committee will comprise Alistair Thomson (Committee Chair and OHA President, from Victoria); Margie Brown (Chair of Queensland OHA Conference Committee), Elisabeth Gondwe (Queensland OHA Conference Committee), Sue Anderson (former OHA President, from South Australia) and at least two other members representing oral historians from other states and territories. We invite expressions of interest from oral historians who would like to join the OHA National Conference Program Committee. If you are interested in joining our program committee please email Alistair Thomson (email@example.com) before the end of December 2017, detailing in just a few lines why you would like to join the committee and what experience you would bring to our work.
Welcome to IOHA Finland!
The Finnish Oral History Network (FOHN), University of Jyväskylä and the Finnish Literature Society (SKS) cordially propose to host the XX International Oral History Congress at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, from 18th June to 21th June 2018.
The theme of the XX IOHA Congress is Memory and Narration. The congress focuses on the complex and multidimensional nature of oral history, and we welcome presentations from diverse perspectives. We invite papers that focus on methodological issues concerning the production and analysis of oral histories and life stories. We especially encourage contributions related to oral history sources as narratives/narration and applications of methodological theories and practices. Therefore, the panels and presentations will address the following themes:
– Archived oral history
– Personal and shared narratives
– Transgenerational memory
– Class, gender, age and memory
– Traditions, folklore and history
– Oral history research in different disciplines
– New waves of oral history
– Oral history, theory and ethics
– Oral history and narration
– Life narratives and oral history
The XX IOHA Congress coincides with the anniversary of two important events in Finnish history, the centennial of the 1918 Finnish Civil War as well as the end of World War I. The congress organizers would therefore like to welcome also contributions that address memories of wars and other conflicts, narratives of survival, intergenerational war memories and communities of commemoration.
A more detailed Call for Papers can be found here: https://www.jyu.fi/en/congress/ioha2018/CfP
For more information, please visit: https://www.jyu.fi/en/congress/ioha2018
If you have any questions concerning the Congress, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Call for Expressions of Interest: Oral History Australia Conference Program Committee
The next Oral History Australia biennial conference will be in Queensland in 2019. Working alongside the Queensland OHA Conference Committee (responsible for all local arrangements) will be an OHA National Conference Program Committee which will be responsible for developing the call for papers, reviewing proposals and developing the program. The OHA National Conference Program Committee will comprise Alistair Thomson (Committee Chair and OHA President, from Victoria); Margie Brown (Chair of Queensland OHA Conference Committee), Elisabeth Gondwe (Queensland OHA Conference Committee), Sue Anderson (former OHA President, from South Australia) and at least two other members representing oral historians from other states and territories. We invite expressions of interest from oral historians who would like to join the OHA National Conference Program Committee.
If you are interested in joining our program committee please email Alistair Thomson (email@example.com) before the end of December 2017, detailing in just a few lines why you would like to join the committee and what experience you would bring to our work.