We’ve recently been discussing our aims and objectives.  Not with a mind to changing them, but rather to be sure that we’ve expressed them clearly. One particular point of discussion was around a single word to describe the range of potential subjects for oral histories. Should their contribution to the industry be “exemplary”? or “significant”? or “typical”? or something else? Or should we be more concerned about their observations than their contribution? For example, the director of a film might give one account of how a particular actor coped with a difficult scene: the sound recordist or make-up artist might have had a totally different view of it all.

And so our basic principle has always been that our national oral history should include subjects of a wide breadth and range of professional experience. As we’ve often said, we are interested in the foot-soldiers as well as the captains.

Expanding on this idea, Storry Walton wrote: –

“It means that AMOHG seeks to record for posterity not only the experience and reflections, of well-known people in prominent positions but equally those of people who have made their contributions in every corner of our industries,

“So, for example, our recordings include oral histories of people who have worked in many of the obscure crafts seen in closing credits of movies and documentaries – lighting directors, laboratory technicians, stunt people, special effects, sound designers, legal and financial roles, distribution and exhibition.

“We record people who have worked in public broadcasting, commercial radio and television, community broadcasting, advertising, educational program making, teaching and as independent filmmakers, podcasters and new media makers.

“We cover media at local, state, territory and national levels and we seek representatives of media work in rural and remote Australia and in First Nations broadcasting and media.

“We record people who have worked as practitioners, historians, critics, reviewers, academics, teachers. and members of guilds, associations and interest groups.

“We record the stories of people who have worked in Government regulation of radio and television, censorship, broadcasting tribunals and public enquiries.

“And many more fields.

“Nearly all media production is teamwork, not the product of an individual. The range of our recording activity accordingly reflects and celebrates the work and skills of people in every sphere of the media industries and dignifies their contributions to our national story.”

Quite separately, Graham Shirley provided a magnificent example of the – sometimes unexpected – contribution to the record that someone in a supplementary role can make. He wrote:

“For instance, in 2017 I interviewed, for NFSA, a woman called Rosslyn Sweetapple, whose main contribution to Australian media was on the 1950s Ealing version of The Shiralee. working on the film as minder for the child actress Dana Wilson, for Wilson’s stand in Susan Hammond, and for the film’s lead, Peter Finch.

Behind the scenes of ‘The Shiralee’ (1956) – Rosslyn Sweetapple (then Rosslyn Grieve) reading a book to Dana Wilson and Susan Hammond.

“Having been introduced to her by Matt Carroll at a screening of that film at AGNSW, I realised she was not only articulate but had a brilliant memory and knew some highly significant people in the industry.

“Therefore, I recorded not only her memories of the making of The Shiralee, but her memories of Harry Watt, whom she knew as a family friend from the 1940s onward, and of Peter Finch, who befriended Rosslyn and her husband. She had much to say about those two, including Watt’s making of the 1946 classic The Overlanders and the young women in the cast of that film, including her sister, the late Helen Grieve.

“In addition to that, Rosslyn spoke eloquently of her six-year career in interior design, trends in 1950s-60s design and architecture, her memories of Sydney CBD’s Rowe Street arts and artists’ precinct, and her sister’s and her own interactions over several decades with Aborigines of Central Australia.”

Rosslyn Sweetapple’s interview is held by NFSA and listed here. As with most NFSA holdings, it is, unfortunately, not available on line, but can be accessed by request, and normally a fee will apply.

And our slightly tidied up Role and Aims page is here.

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