The Australian Media Oral History Group (AMOHG) is the only Australian interest group specialising in audiovisual media-related oral history.
Over its 30-year history its members have recorded more than 450 oral histories for the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), preserving the memories of media practitioners, commentators and theorists in a vast range of diverse roles.
It continues to develop its national role, outreach and activity – for instance by recording the stories of people who have been pioneering new ground in our New Media Oral History project, collaborating with other archival agencies and trialling new techniques and technology.
A continuing concern of AMOHG is that the huge library of oral history in the collection of NFSA – over 6,000 recordings – is little known and therefore little used. AMOHG supports the provision of adequate resources and funding for the Archive by Government so that this hidden national treasure can be brought to light.
In 2022 the Group is concentrating on researching and conducting oral histories of Australian practitioners in audiovisual media as well as promoting the craft and ethics of recording oral histories. AMOHG is also pursuing projects which will enhance its worth, and develop group membership drawn from a broad and diverse spectrum of age, experience and cultural backgrounds.
The AMOHG website has been reinvigorated – refurbished, updated and maintained by Dominic Case. In its five years of existence, the number of visitors has grown each year: from just 150 five years ago, to nearly 2,000 in 2021. Blog posts and extended dissertations on aspects of the Oral History collection are featured and create spikes of interest when posted. In addition, a page is added every quarter listing, with details and links, some recently deceased members of the film and media industries: this list now covers the past 19 years.
The Facebook Group, managed by Geoff Gardner, has close to 800 ’members’ with applications to have access to the page being regularly submitted. There are several posts a week on the Facebook group. Like the AMOHG Website, many are tributes to recently deceased members of the film and media industries.
Such posts usually reach at least 200 views but in some cases, have been seen by several thousand people.
The page is open to all and thus clearly attracts attention beyond its ‘membership’ probably as a result of being found by the Google and other search engines. Many of the posts are ‘shared’ to other individual Facebook pages.
All this suggests that interest in AMOHG extends beyond the current membership and beyond actual recording of interviews – as an information and opinion source, as an occasional guide to technique and technology, as an event guide and as a noticeboard for media-related activities.
Discussion has continued on extending AMOHG’s reach as an independent body to collaborate with other historical and archival agencies across Australia in recording oral histories, while maintaining our historic association with NFSA.
The first such collaboration had been undertaken in 2019/20 by member Malcolm Smith with the Australian Film and Television School ( AFTRS) in a program of student participation in AMOHG’s New Media project.
Current collaborations in development include a project with Cinema Reborn for 2022, and an oral history project with members of Society of Australian Cinema Pioneers.
Relationship with National Film and Sound Archive
We want to see the relationship with NFSA develop through the exchange of professional information and views in a culture of cordiality and cooperation. To that end we have already and will continue to provide recommendations to the NFSA in order to help it make the oral history collection better known, accessible and used.
AMOHG has undertaken a number of experimental activities this year.
Led by Rod Freedman, we experimented with new oral history video recording using Zoom technology that could be controlled by the interviewer. Our conclusion was that the method was viable in terms of quality standards, but not necessarily of current archival standard. Importantly, it was technically unobtrusive for the interviewee.
We experimented with new voice recognition (VR) techniques for transcription of oral histories. Our conclusion was that the methodologies we used were highly reliable with a good level of accuracy, cost effectiveness and promise.
AMOHG intends to continue its encouragement of NFSA to explore these techniques as a way of ensuring that transcriptions become an essential component of accession.