Oral history and folklore

The Library’s Oral History and Folklore Collection dates back to the 1950’s and includes a rich and diverse collection of interviews and recordings with Australians from all walks of life.

Our Oral History and Folklore collection records the voices that describe our cultural, intellectual and social life.  The collection consists of around 45,000 hours of recordings, the earlier ones dating back to the 1950s when the tape recorder became available.  More than 1000 hours of interviews, music and accents are added to the collection each year. Increasingly the collection is available online or may be requested from the catalogue. You can listen to:

  • Folklore recordings - popular culture, traditional songs, dances, music, stories and more
  • Interviews with distinguished Australians - scientists, writers, artists, politicians and sports people
  • Interviews with people who have lived through significant social trends and conditions - unemployment, the impact of child removals from families,  the Depression, and migration to Australia
  • Environmental sound - the historical sound of the built and natural environment.

Some interviews have transcripts or summaries and our online audio delivery system helps you search the content of our collection, which can be searched through Trove.

Highlights

  • Interviews by Hazel de Berg - 1,290 recordings of interviews and readings dating from the 1950s of prominent Australian poets, artists, writers, composers, actors, academics, publishers, librarians, scientists, anthropologists, public servants and politicians.   
  • Folk music by John Meredith - over 500 recordings between 1953 and 1994 of traditional Australian folk music, songs, recitations, bush dance music, yarns and reminiscences.  John Meredith was a foundation member of the Bushwhackers and helped form the Bush Music Club and the Australian Folklore Society. 
  • Bringing Them Home oral history project - These include over 300 interviews collected between1998 and 2002 of Indigenous people and others, such as missionaries, police and administrators, involved in or affected by the process of child removals. Listen online to a selection of interviews.
  • Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants project - interviews with people who were in institutional and out of home care as children. Listen online to a selection of interviews.
  • Australian Paralympic stories- interviews with key people responsible for the growth and success of Paralympic sport in Australia. Listen online to Australian Paralympic stories.