Box containing audio tapesAbout Oral Histories

For centuries history was passed down by word of mouth, but with the development of writing in many civilisations, people came to rely on written documents for information about the past.

Sound recording technology has enabled us to collect and accurately preserve word of mouth stories. This is called oral history. It is a powerful means of recording and preserving the unique memories and life experiences of people, enabling us to eavesdrop on past events, feelings, attitudes and ways of life.

This has been very much part of the Maaori tradition but is now given another dimension by being 'captured in time', so that future tellings do not alter the details.

Our Oral Histories

The primary form of the oral history document is the recorded human voice, with a written transcription or abstract accompanying it. At Hamilton City Libraries we have begun using video recordings as well as audio recordings. One of our recent video recordings is with John and Bunny Mortimer, filmed at the Taitua Arboretum.

We have over 500 oral histories in the Heritage Collections on Level 3 of the Central Library. The topics are as diverse as architecture, immigrants, Hamilton suburbs, farming and the Hamilton Gardens. They are a wonderful source of information and really bring the subject alive, creating vivid and accurate pictures of our past. We also have several excellent books and magazines to help anyone interested in recording an oral history of their own.