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.
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 as part of a larger collection of papers.
After 1991 the Library actively sought material to add to the oral history collection – by donation or purchase
In general, audio will have a shorter life-expectancy than that of good quality traditional text materials.
In addition, audio carriers are more vulnerable to damage caused by poor handling, by poorly maintained or malfunctioning equipment and by poor storage than conventional text documents. Due to the high density of information, digital carriers are generally more vulnerable to loss of information through damage than analogue carriers. If a carrier is damaged by poor storage or mishandling, the information may be lost. This applies to both digital and analogue material.
Survey the collection – prioritise it. What is most valuable content? What in most danger of being lost due to damage or degradation? What most often requested? How many hours are there? What formats – cassette, reel, DAT etc
For large collections it is recommended that you create a data base that later can be migrated to a digital content management system/catalogue
Desk top – home businesses – may be cheap, but may not be of high standard – playback machine (CD, cassette, reel to reel) plugged into computer sound card, or through an audio capture device – and saved using audio software such as Audacity. NOT RECOMMENDED
Use a professionally set up digital audio workspace - best quality playback equipment and high quality analogue to digital converter eg DAD, professional software and computers wired to location outside the studio
Once digitised, the original carrier eventually goes. Archives need, therefore, to record in a systematic manner the relevant secondary information contained in the original document so future users can be sure of the authenticity of the primary data.
Metadata – documentation – details all technical, process, provenance and descriptive aspects of a recording
Once system set up, if you have the storage space, can accept more new material. Easier to catalogue, transcribe or make time logs.
Set standards – train interviewers, give advice on equipment, lend out equipment if possible.
Oral History Association of Australia NSW has good information on equipment and project development etc see http://www.ohaansw.org.au /
Also this is a very useful publication Oral History Handbook 5th edition, 3rd impression, by Beth Robertson $20 for OHAA members available at seminars and workshops Mailed Orders: $28, $20 members and Bulk orders of 10 or more $20 Mail your cheque to: OHAA-SA Inc, PO Box 3113, Unley SA 5061 The Oral History Handbook has been published by the South Australian Branch of the Oral History Association since 1983. It is well established as the national standard. The author draws on 25 years experience of practising and teaching oral history techniques and preserving sound recordings. In this newest printing (5th edition, 3rd impression) Beth has revised five pages which update information on digital technology.