Oral history projects

Oral histories record the stories of individuals and communities in such a way as to preserve the details of characters, places, times, dates, feelings, issues and all the events, big and small, that are significant to both the interviewee and interviewer.

The interviewer's job is to make it easy for the interviewee to relax and remember his or her stories about the subject.

A good interviewer will enjoy and be fascinated by people's stories and encourage them to tell them with all the detail and feeling of the original events. A good interviewer empowers the teller to tell the story in his or her own way and helps the interviewee remember details that might otherwise be skipped over.


Like stories, oral history projects can have different points of view. They can have a focus such as the life stories of the members of a particular group of people in the community. An example of this might be to decide to record the stories of as many people who worked in a particular job as possible before their stories and skills are lost. A similar focus could be the stories of individual participants in a local community service organisation or cultural group.

A project could also focus on a particular event in a town's or suburb's history. This could be about the 'struggle to save a part of the town's heritage' or 'how the town survived the 74 floods'.


Oral history projects can provide many outcomes for an individual or community if designed carefully. Social outcomes include:

recognition of the contributions of individuals and groups
providing information and understanding about the needs and experience of neglected or disempowered communities or cultural groups
recognition and acknowledgement for groups such as the elderly for their past and present contributions to our communities

Oral history storytelling projects can be simply recorded, transcribed and stored for posterity or, perhaps more importantly, can published in a range of forms including:

books and journals
world wide web sites
CD and DVD

The raw transcriptions and the publications can become valuable community resources for other community cultural development projects such as:

community drama or storytelling projects
community festivals

Consultation and planning

Oral history or community story projects can vary enormously in scope and potential outcomes. The success of a project can be set in place with good community and individual consultation and planning.

One highly successful community cultural development possibility is the training of local community members in interviewing techniques to enable them to run their own oral history project with or without the support of an experienced project coordinator.

If you would like to arrange a meeting or conference to discuss the potential of a possible oral history project, don't hesitate to contact me.

Examples of successful Oral History Projects

Redcliffe Seafood Industry Oral History Project - collection of oral histories of professional fishermen and their families. The project was designed to produce stories for inclusion in the Redcliffe Seafood Festival.

Inala Kindergarten 30 th Anniversary Project - collection of oral history stories from past and present committee and students from the kindergarten. The stories also helped in the creation of a mural for the community park adjoining the kindergarten.

West End Multicultural Storytelling Project - a project of the West End Community Storytelling Group to collect stories of living in West End from a diverse range of residents. The stories have become a resource for other community projects.

Brisbane Ethnic Language Schools Oral History Project - designed to collect the stories of the initiation and running of a range of community ethnic language schools operating in Brisbane. The collection provides a resource for the Ethnic Schools Association to enable existing and proposed schools to learn from the experiences of the schools in the project.

The oral history interview (listening like a storyteller)

Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller
P.O. Box 5300, West End, Q4101, 
Brisbane, Australia
Tel. 61 (0)7 3846 3135
Mob. 0417 478408
Email. mail@storytell.com.au 
All contents copyright 2001, Daryll Bellingham. All rights reserved.
Revised: 31st July, 2002
URL of this page: www.storytell.com.au/comoralhist.html