National Library of Australia

Oral History and Folklore digitisation - progress so far

Preservation, access and digitisation

Almost all of the National Library’s Oral History and Folklore Collection is in electronic form with the majority being analogue, mostly on tape. The Library has a long term plan to convert the whole of its audio collection into digital format.

Digitising the audio recordings and transferring the digital information to the Library’s managed digital storage systems is considered the only viable pathway for maintaining access to this content. The Library is very aware of the urgency of this process due to the gradual degradation of the physical carriers, the fact that they are being made obsolete by technical advances, and the total dependence on the machinery to read the content.

The Library’s digitisation program for its Oral History and Folklore Collection is largely driven by the requirements of audio preservation. However as digitisation for whatever reason can facilitate access, we ensure that each preservation master has an accompanying access copy.

Progress as of 30 June 2010

The Oral History and Folklore Collection comprises 41,000 hours of audio of which 25,000 hours (61%) has been migrated to the Library's Digital Object Storage System.

Obsolete replay equipment

As the machines needed to replay the audio collection are no longer manufactured, the Library has stockpiled spare parts to maintain the necessary equipment. This approach will enable completing the digitisation program, although keeping the obsolete machines operational for the next decade or so will remain a challenge.

Current intake

To ensure that we are not adding to the long term conversion issues, all commissioned recordings for the collection are made on professional hard disc recorders in a native preservation format and transferred directly to the Library’s Digital Object Storage System.

Future digitisation plans

It is anticipated that the entire Oral History and Folklore Collection will be in digital form on the Library’s Digital Object Storage System within 8 years.

Digitisation of the collection is prioritised according to the value of the content, the age of the recording and the fragility of the carrier.

Requests by researchers may move particular recordings up the priority list.

The Library is also making plans to digitise other sound recordings in its collections, particularly those in the Manuscripts and Music and Dance collections.

More Oral History and Folklore

Other online resources

Curator's Choice

  • 2/1st Australian Army Topographic Survey Company, Kokoda, New Guinea 1944
    2/1st Australian Army Topographic Survey Company, Kokoda, New Guinea 1944

This Second World War topographic map of Kokoda shows the location of villages, tracks, a canoe route, seaplane bases and mission stations. Map images from the Library’s Digital Collection are interactive. Use the Zoom control to pan and examine details.