Oral histories

The Library has a large collection of oral histories – the recorded memories and experiences of individuals – captured on tape, disk and other formats.

The vast majority of these are interviews with those involved in the visual and performing arts, literature, politics, sport, the media and events of world significance. There are also recorded speeches, talks and live broadcast recordings of unique events.

Our major oral history series include:

  • Valuing our veterans – interviews with twenty Victorian men and women, covering WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and East Timor
  • the papers of BA Santamaria (1915–98) – a collection of nearly 400 tapes of speeches and talks given by this well-known political activist, social commentator and thinker
  • Wendy Lowenstein (1927–2006) – over 100 field recordings on Australian folklore and social history from this peace activist and co-founder of the Victorian Folklore Society; subject matter includes songs, yarns, poetry, medical lore, children’s play rhymes, superstitions and beliefs
  • the Christopher Bantick collection – over 600 taped interviews from this Melbourne-based freelance journalist, reviewer and teacher; includes conversations with Peter Ackroyd, John Banville, Graeme Base, Geoff Blainey, John Button, Peter Carey, Helen Garner, Sonya Hartnett, John Hirst, Les Murray, Brenda Niall, Ray Parkin, Gerry Adams, Nicholas Shakespeare and Fay Weldon
  • the collection of Norman Banks – this Melbourne radio broadcaster made many significant recordings over fifty years, starting in the 1930s; with over 200 tapes and broadcast records, this collection includes some unique items, including Banks’ coverage of the Helsinki Games in 1952
  • interviews from Patsy Adam-Smith – this Australian author, historian and servicewoman conducted 169 interviews with veterans, shearers, railwaymen and other occupational groups over many years.

Other highlights include the Writers in Focus collection, containing interviews writers such as Richard Flanagan, Tim Flannery, Helen Garner, and Romona Kaval, and a series of interviews with Victorian high-country cattlemen.