Interviews put oral history on the record

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Voices of the past will be preserved for the future in a community oral history project.
The Central Otago Heritage Trust has been given funding from the Central Lakes Trust and the Otago Community Trust to employ Annette Carter as oral history co-­ordinator.

Mrs Carter, a former librarian, is helping a group of about 20 volunteers record the stories of Central Otago people.

A focus was on people who had lived in the region for a long time but it was not all about elderly people. For example, a young person might talk about the state of maternity care in the region and have a story to tell, Mrs Carter said.

Understanding ‘‘what life was like on the ground’’ was the aim of this project, down to what people ‘‘ate, and what they wore, on a very personal level’’.
Interviewees were provided clear information on their rights and how the recording could be used.

They could consent to recordings being available after a certain date, or with conditions attached.
‘‘The interviewee is directing how it goes. It could go down all sorts of paths,’’ Mrs Carter said.

Alongside audio recordings, photos, articles, documents, and information on the interviewee, a summary of the topics discussed would help future researchers to navigate the resource.

Central Otago Heritage Trust co-ordinator Alice Spiers said ‘‘capturing everyday life of everyday people’’ provided the ‘‘sound of the time’’ to be preserved.
The development of New Zealand English was one aspect oral histories were able to record.

The project aimed to reflect a range of voices across age, gender, ethnicity and socio­economic status.
‘‘For researchers in 100 years hopefully that will be valuable,’’ Mrs Spiers said.

Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery research co­-ordinator Rachel Taylor said the museum was working through different ideas about how the recordings would be stored and accessed.

The museum had its own archive of oral histories and had recently finished transcribing about 100 recordings donated by individuals and ‘‘A Taste of Gold’’ — an oral history of orcharding in the region conducted in the 1990s.

These were able to be accessed in the research room at the museum.
‘‘We invite people to come and have a look at them’’.
Audio histories provided a ‘‘clear picture of the key facets of the society’’ from a personal perspective.
‘‘You get a really well-­rounded view of the history,’’ Ms Taylor said.