Oral History Abstracting

I completed my final oral history the other weekend. This involved two days at the National Library working from 9 to 1 with lots of practical work. A smaller group this time, but most of the people had been on the previous courses with me. A newcomer (although this apparently the second time he has done the course) was Paul Diamond who works for Ministry of Culture and Heritage and has just published a book which sounds fascinating – Makereti – taking Maori to the world – about the famous Rotorua guide Maggie Papakura. He is also recording oral histories of Vietnam veterans.

It was interesting to hear a roundup of how people’s projects were progressing.

Abstracting done properly creates a valuable resource for researchers by providing an easy guide to the contents. You work in a shorthand style, deciding on what information will be of use to future researchers and giving little quotes where necessary to capture the tone of the interview. nzhistory.net.nz has an example of an abstract.

Getting down to the nitty gritty involved working on our own with headphones and a tape deck and abstracting an interview with a 100 year old Scotsman called George Macpherson. We all became totally absorbed – it is very focused work, you use a footpedal to rewind bits that you want to check on or rehear. Time passed really quickly. Judith Fyfe worked with us individually to critique our work which was great.

This has been a great series of courses – I would really recommend them to anyone who is seriously interested in oral history – Judith Fyfe is a great presenter and I feel very fortuante to have had this experience. Now the hard work will begin.

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