The Oral History Records Rescue Group (OHRRG) consisted of representatives from Friends of Battye Library, Oral History Association of Australia, W.A. Branch, Professional Historians Association, Royal Western Australia Historical Society and Western Australian Genealogy Society.
The OHRRG Project was founded to manage a significant two year project funded by Lotterywest with a grant totalling $849,000.
The project was coordinated by the State Library’s Preservation and Maintenance Team. The goal was to make available the most at risk and in demand oral history interviews held in the Battye Library. The aim for the end of the project was to have 7,500 hours of interviews digitised.
Purpose built sound studios were used to transfer analogue tape to digital format at preservation standards. Project Manager, Lee Blackford, reported in December 2011 that there was a total of 3,850 hours of cassette tapes or 1,777 interviews that had been digitised.
A small sample of the many rich and varied stories are:
- The full life of the orphaned son of a wealthy Indian landowner who ran camel drays in Coolgardie. He describes life in the Swan Boys Orphanage and his life as a boxer, whaler and prospector.
- A telegraph operator who worked in the Goldfields and the Pilbara before enlisting in World War II. He was a POW in Singapore and Burma. The interview is interesting for the interviewee’s telegraphic was of speaking and his verbal examples of morse code.
- A series of audio letters sent from an English migrant family residing in Western Australia to their parents back in England in the 1960s. They are a remarkable time capsule of the perceptions, hopes and efforts of just one ordinary family. That they exist at all is a testament to the care with which multiple generations of the family treated the correspondence.
The substantive part of the OHRRG Project was completed in early May 2013. The project team digitised 9,000 hours of at risk oral history interviews on tape and 200 voices are being prepared for the State Library of Western Australia website. There are 127 voices available as at 20 May 2013 the remainder will be available as soon as possible.
State Library staff have painstakingly researched each interview to make sure that copyright permissions were in place before placing each recording and transcript onto the website. You may access the interviews at www.slwa.wa.gov.au.
This oral history digitisation project has been an incredible exercise and on that will have long lasting benefits for the people of Western Australia. The support of Lotterywest, State Library of Western Australia, private donor the late Lindsay Peet and the volunteers from the organisations responsible for making this project happen is incredible.