Tim Sherratt

Sharing recent updates and work-in-progress

Jan 2024

Exploring oral histories in Trove

The National Library of Australia holds over 55,000 hours of oral history and folklore recordings dating back to the 1950s. This collection is being made available online, and many recordings can now be listened to using Trove’s audio player.

However, the oral history collection is not easy to find in Trove. You need to go the ‘Music, Audio, & Video’ category and check the ‘Sound/Interview, lecture, talk’ format facet. To limit results to oral histories that have been digitised, you can add “nla.obj” to your query and set the ‘Access’ facet to ‘Online’. But what’s actually in the oral history collection and what can you do with it?

To help researchers explore and analyse the NLA’s oral history collection, I’ve added some notebooks to the Music, sound, and oral histories section of the GLAM Workbench:

There’s also a couple of associated datasets:

The Trove Data Guide uses these datasets to create an overview of the collection. For example, here’s how the oral histories are distributed over time.

Chart showing the number of oral histories per year and online status

And here’s the top ten subjects of digitised oral histories.

subject count
Painters – Australia – Interviews 193
Politicians – Australia 192
Prime ministers – Australia – Quotations 188
Older people – New South Wales – Biography 187
Menzies, Robert, Sir, 1894-1978. Speeches 185
Federal politicians 184
Politicians – Australia – Quotations 183
Australia – Politics and government – 1945-1965 172
Politicians – Australia – Interviews 171
Academics 126

The Trove Data Guide also includes information on the types of data from the oral histories and how you can access it.