Apple’s 40th Anniversary

Whether Apple was actually started by two guys in a California garage may be debatable, but what's certain is that the pioneering computer maker turned consumer electronics juggernaut has come a long way.  Four decades after Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak set out to turn computers into a tool that anyone could use, Apple has become the most valuable brand in the world, with some of the most successful products ever made.  For full story click here.

Adoption history in Australia

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Adoptions in 21st century Australian have seen a climax of adoption reform, according to Marian Quartly who spoke at a keynote address for the Biennial OHAA in Adelaide this week.  As part of a four-year ARC-funded research grant, the Monash University History of Adoption team established a website and put out a call for people to upload their personal testimonies through oral histories.  Marian and the team hoped this would result in research results from all points of view.  She notes that most responses were from adoptees and birth mothers.

Marian looked at adoptions over a long time period and noted that from the 1920s to early 1970s babies were generally given up to avoid shaming the family – babies were born in secret.  From 1860 to 1950 advertertisements in the newspapers can be found for babies (see Trove).  The attitude only began to change when abortion became more acceptable and payments were made to single mothers.  The popular magazine "The Australian Women's Weekly" helped shape the change in attitude through articles and its "advice" column and  the magazine helped establish mothers' groups.  A research finding was that society mores in Australia forced adoption for single mothers who felt that they had no choice. On 21 March 2013 Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a national apology for Forced Adoption Practices.  

marketThe Adoption Project website also covers inter-country adoptions and how that has affected the adoptees and the adoptive parents. Vietnamese babies came out during the Vietnam War.  Babies from other countries continued the trend.  Some adoptees suffered from racism and confusion with their dual identity.

 The research project has resulted in a book entitled The Market in Babies: Stories of Australian Adoption.





Re-Imagining Salinas Chinatown, an Oral History Walking Tour

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At the Biennial National OHAA Conference this week, we were treated to a keynote address about re-imagining a space that is no longer there but for oral histories of memory.

Re-imagining Salinas Chinatown is an augmented reality walking tour, both on-site and web based that is currently in the design phase. The only extant Chinatown between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the space has given way to a memory of what has been as there is no more Chinatown, but lots of memories.

The project began with requests for oral histories from Chinese, Philipinos and others who had lived in the community for generations in order to engage in historical and cultural preservation and to create collective identity.

According to Rina Benmayor, the oral histories construct important memory in the thirdspace, transformation of community.  She uses multi-vocals, many stories all about the same location, with visual renderings to bring what used to be, back to life.  She also ensures that current residents are given the opportunity to tell their stories as well.  With a large population of homeless people in the community going on 30 years, Rina has found ways to incorporate everyone’s story through oral histories.

The walking tour will enable the voices from the oral histories to be heard.  See the website  On the website people are invited to tell their stories to create the lived experience.  This is all a work in progress.  The purpose is to have people meander through the site, get a feel of what the life of the community was like.  The project team is working with people born froResize of Re-imagining Salinas - Rina Benmayor4m 1920s to 1960s.  They want a mini-documentary, which will be aired on Radiolab on NPR in a collage effect, bringing different voices together by which they can try to increase the listener’s attention span.  Historical photographs and soundscapes will be put on the site.  Most people have memories of the Republic Café which would be an ideal location for the exhibition space.  The website audience could be people from Salina or anywhere and would be a useful on-line resource. 

Rina is Professor of Oral History, Literature and Latina/o Studies at California State University Monterey Bay, where she also directs the CSUMB Oral History and Community Memory Archive.


Biennial Oral History Conference held in Adelaide

O beautiful Adelaide.  What a treat to travel to this fine city for the Biennial National Conference of the Oral History Association Australia from 21-24 September 2013. Combined with the 21st South Australia State History Conference, there was a delightful agenda of events put on by the SA branch.  Something for everyone about the latest in oral history techniques and ideas from leading experts in Australia.  OHAA-QLD was well represented, making for a good reunion and lots of fun. Parts of the conference were held in the historic State Library of South Australia. What a beauty of a building. How interesting that they have incorporated the old with the new. Glass additions connect the complex (and free wi-fi!)  But staff continue to work away in rooms more than 100 years old. They were eager to tell the story of the building.  Good idea to go on a tour if you get a chance. There are free tours every week day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Also held at the State Library was the final committee meeting of the year for the National Oral History Association of Australia.  Al Thomson chaired the committee meeting and did a lovely job wrapping up the board meetings for the year.  This past year had been fraught with intense meetings, mostly about whether or not to adopt a new constitution and a possible name change. Thanks from OHAA-Qld to all board members who worked hours and hours on end to provide all of us with best practices and thoughtful consideration about the future of the organisation.

Catherine Cottle
OHAA-Qld President 

CSIRO history

The CSIRO in Canberra is feeling very history conscious now, what with the centenary looming and with a need to harvest everything to do with the organisation’s long, long association with this city.  Staff will be scanning photos, making notes about them and recording oral history.  For full story click here.

Colombia’s Violent Past

Emelia González is one of 23 Colombians to tell her story in “Throwing Stones at the Moon” (out September 12 from the nonprofit book series Voice of Witness), a collection of first-person accounts from people who have been displaced by the violence that has plagued the country since the 1948 assassination of the populist presidential frontrunner at the time, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, set off a civil conflict split down party lines. Journalist Sibylla Brodzinsky and Human Rights Watch researcher Max Schoening took on the role of oral historians and spent two years interviewing people across the country, from the Andes and the Amazon to the cities and the eastern plains.  For full story click here.

Students interview aged-car residents in Canberra

Teenagers are turning stereotypes about young people around through a unique project in Canberra.  A wonderful partnership between local school Hawker College and aged care facility Kangara Waters has begun to change the way different generations think about each other. Students from the college volunteer at the resident’s home each Friday through a range of activities such as helping out in the Dementia unit, teaching residents computer skills and sharing stories as part of an oral history project.  For full story, click here.

Students collect oral histories (USA)

Edmonds-Woodway High School assistant principal Geoff Bennett started a history club last fall with the goal of getting young people interested in history and learning from the older generation.  Students in the club have spent the year visiting people at Brighton Court retirement home and recording their stories. For the summer, they teamed up with the Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society to interview people during the Saturday farmers market.  For full story click here.

Death of Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who marked an epochal achievement in exploration with “one small step” from the Apollo 11 lunar module on July 20, 1969, becoming the first person to walk on the moon, died overnight at 82.  In an interview, Hansen, author of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, cited another “special sensitivity” that made the first man on the moon a stranger on Earth. “I think Neil knew that this glorious thing he helped achieve for the country back in the summer of 1969 — glorious for the entire planet, really — would inexorably be diminished by the blatant commercialism of the modern world,” Hansen said.

“Looking back, we were really very privileged to live in that thin slice of history where we changed how man looks at himself, and what he might become, and where he might go,” Mr. Armstrong said in a 2001 NASA oral history project. “So I’m very thankful.”  For full story click here.


Oral historian on Awards shortlist


We are very proud to announce our President, Ariella Van Luyn has been shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards for her unpublished manuscript Hidden Objects which is based on oral histories done in Brisbane.  You will see Ariella and the story on page 3 of today’s Courier-Mail.  For on line story see  She was also interviewed on ABC News last night

We wish her well with the Awards and look forward to her work being published.