Thursday, July 29, 2010

Avondale Oral History now digitised

Something I'm very pleased to have been involved with is the  Avondale-Waterview Historical Society's "tapes to disc" project this year here in Avondale. 

Back in 1990-1991, as part of the national sesquicentary commemorations, the Avondale Oral History Committee organised a project to interview and tape residents of Avondale at that time. The result was a 44-tape collection presented 5 October 1991 to the Auckland City Library. I listened to part of that collection in 2001 over in the city at (what is now called) the Sir George Grey Special Collections. But, I've always wanted to see the tapes transcribed somehow, to mkake them more readily available to researchers.

The Avondale Oral History Committee sparked off the Avondale History Group, through Ron Oates who began to compile historic notes on Avondale resulting in the publication of Challenge of the Whau in 1994. Avondale history was suddenly in the limelight. I recall thinking, while I'd been collecting local history stuff since around 1983, "Well, that's it. No need to continue further ..."

But, I did. In 2002 the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society started up, and our second major project, after publication of Heart of the Whau in mid 2003, was to apply for funding from the local Community Board to gave the oral history tapes copied so a second set could be lodged with Avondale Community Library, along with photos from the main library collection.

Fast forward to earlier this year. Ron Oates gave the Society a mass of the old notes that went towards the book -- and a collection of tapes. A third set existed (well, nearly so, a couple are missing) of the Avondale Oral History project, plus five additional recordings. My thought was "We could get these digitised now ..." I started liaising with staff at the Sir George Grey Special Collections, and asked if they'd like to have a CD set of the recordings. They gave me a yes, as did Avondale library. I then approached John Russell, a member of the parish of St Jude's Church here in Avondale, who had put together the digital photos included in last year's Avondale Photo Exhibition, and he said he could do the job. The AWHS applied to the Community Board for funding, received it -- and now there are four sets of CDs, the digitised version of the Avondale Oral Hstory Project tapes. I'm listening to one of the recordings as I write this.

Next Tuesday, we'll present two sets to the Avondale Community Library (one for Special Collections in the city). Someone asked me what the next project is going to be (this year, AWHS have already organised the 150th birthday for St Ninian's, and now there's this). 

Ask me a bit later when I'm over the 'flu!


  1. Sorry to hear you are unwell. That is great effort. Oral histories really lose something if you don't hear the voices. It is fortunate that back in the nineties that the group had the foresight to do the interviews. I bet there are a few people who were interviewed who are no longer around.

  2. You're right there, Andrew. One of those interviewed, Kurt Brehmer, passed away earlier this year. What I especially love, listening to the recordings, is hearing folks thinking about their past, what they did, what they saw -- and saying, time and again, that there is a story here in Avondale. One bloke corrected a historian in the local paper over one of our street names -- and was quite right. The interviews let us hear the start of people realising Avondale has a history, and something should be done to preserve it. I reckon each and every one is special, regardless of content.

  3. Fantastic it's all done Lisa. Flu yes I have a household full of Flu Units namely my kids!

    Look after yourself there