At the OHAA Biennial this year, there was quite a bit of discussion about the use of photographs in the oral history interview. From the NSW Government Printing Office, an oral history project has emerged that looks at institutionally staged photographs from the worker’s point of view. This evocative project brings humour and humanity to an institutional labour experience, shedding light on the back story behind the photographs.
PhD candidate Jesse Adams Stein interviewed some 31 former workers about their years of working life from 1959 – 1989 at The Guv, as the printing office is described by the workers. Photographs were used at the end of the interviews as memory triggers. Interesting stories emerge that inform the context of institutional memory. Many stories have a shared memory of humorous events about the staged photographs being fake or publicity shots that were very ”stagey”.
This begs the question about description of many of our historical photographic collection. Is there an easy or seamless way for all of us to add description to institutional or business collections as content emerges? How can we join up oral history information with institutional records? Many libraries will add description or tags. It is just a matter of contacting your library or archive and asking if it is possible.
Other interesting aspects of Jesse’s project include transitions as technology changes, how outdated technology can lead to loss of trade skills and identity and how a project like this can give people the opportunity to allow workers to use their skills once more.
From a Queensland perspective, are there institutional photographic collections in the State that could be tapped into with oral history interviews that help inform and add to Queensland memory?