What is oral history and where to find it

Most people think of oral history in a straightforward way: older people talking about their life experiences for the record. Any personal account that is recorded for safekeeping is ‘oral history’. It might be recollections about childhood and going to school, training in a trade or profession, playing sport or following an interest, being part of a protest group or witnessing a historic event, or the ins and outs, ups and downs and challenges of daily life. Younger people can record oral history too, creating a record that they can add to in later life.

More about oral history:

What makes oral history so special and so valuable, Statement of Value, Oral History Australia, Sept 2021

A guide to recording oral history’, Ministry for Culture and Heritage, updated 20-Dec-2012

What is Oral History?, Oral History Association of Victoria

Paul Diamond talks about recording oral histories

The main collection of oral history is in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. The online catalogue gives a good indication of the breadth of the collection search here.

Some oral history extracts online:

Short podcasts I’ve made with oral history interviews I’ve recorded OHW – Oral History Stories (also available on iTunes)

John Kendrick recalling his first job with Country cinemas in the 1930’s Ngataonga.org.nz

Women’s experiences of the Canterbury Earthquakes: Women’s Voices: Recording women’s experiences of the Canterbury earthquakes

Vietnam War Oral History Project –
New Zealand’s Vietnam War – audio extracts

28th Maori Battalion website
28th Maori Battalion website

Ohariu Valley Oral History Project