Folklore at the National Library
pictured: National Library of Australia, Canberra | Booligal fiddler Joe Cashmere plays for composer Alfred Hill
The following was prepared by David De Santi with Jane Brownlee as part of the 2004 National Library Folk Festival Fellowship they were awarded.
David and Jane produced a CD recording ( A Swag of Treasures - Australian Dance Tunes Volume 2 and a publication from their research work at the National Library of Australia. These were launchd at the 2005 National Folk Festival.
The National Library of Australia (NLA) traces its history back to 1901 and the formation of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library which began in it’s life a commitment to documenting Australian national life and achievement. In 1960 the National Library Act was passed separating the national library and parliamentary library functions. Amongst other functions, the Act imposed on the National Library the responsibility of developing a comprehensive national collection – defined broadly to encompass books, manuscripts, pictures and photographs, maps, music, film and oral history – on Australia and the Australian people. Within several of these collecting areas, but especially through the oral history collections, Australian folkloric traditions are strongly documented.
The oral history programme was commenced during the 1960s. In 1963 the Library acquired the John Meredith Collection of Australian traditional music, songs and recitation. During the 1970s the Library built gradually on the resources acquired by John Meredith with further field recordings of traditional performers and recordings of concert performances of folk song and music.
During the 1980s the Library entered a vigorous phase of folkloric recording and collecting with a number of collectors contributing to the program.
Oral History Collection
In accord with its national heritage responsibilities, the National Library produces, collects and preserves recorded interviews and other forms of oral history which will meet the documentation, research, publication and exhibition needs of the Australian research community.
The Library’s Oral History Collection was initiated in the late 1950’s to supplement manuscript holdings by recording Interviews with Eminent Australians. The Library has also brought together a significant quantity of Folklore field tapes, following the post-war folk culture revival in Australia. In recent years a substantial number of interviews in the field of Social History have been added, contributing to a balanced national collection of some 58,000 oral history and folk recordings and over 36,000 hours of recording.
The National Libary Oral History Collection contains a significant quantity of folklore field tapes, dating from the post-war Australian folklife revival. These include the John Meredith, Norm O’Connor, Chris Sullivan and Alan Scott Collections, and the Wattle Collection. The Anne O’Connor Collection highlights the contribution of the Irish to the Australian cultural experience.
The Library has also begun to collect material that reflects the full range of multi-cultural experience in music and other forms of cultural expression. Most notable among this endeavour is the Monaro Multicultural Music and Dance Project and the Peter Parkhill Collection, focusing on traditional and popular music of Greek, Turkish, Lebanese and Italian Australians.
The aim of the Oral History Program is to produce recordings for long-term preservation. The Library produces access and preservation copies of acquisitions depending upon the access conditions. Information about the Oral History program is available on the internet from: www.nla.gov.au
The oral history holdings are being progressively added to the Oral History and Folklore Catalogue which provides access by subject, name or project. Each recording is identified by a TRC number.
About the Collections featured on the recording A Swag of Treasures (Australian Dance Tunes Volume 2)
The tunes on this recording were sourced from the following collections and collectors.
John Meredith Collection
|John Meredith (1920-2001) began collecting in 1952 with a tape recorder. Initially he did it all at his own expense seeing the huge value in capturing Australia’s folk music and song. In his first round of collecting from 1952 to 1961 John recorded 950 items with the majority being songs. With support from the NLA John began collecting again in 1981 and continued until 1994 and recorded a further 6,769 items. This time he also collected a large number of dance tunes as well as songs. What he also did on this occasion was to include discussion with the informants placing the songs, tunes and recitations into a living context. All 374 hours of his recordings are housed in the National Library. He was also a fine photographer and an enthusiastic 8mm film maker. These films are at ScreenSound Australia in Canberra. He published parts of his work in Folk Songs of Australia Volumes 1 and 2 and was the author and compiler of a number of other folklore publications from 1955.
Rob Willis Collection
Rob Willis (b. 1944) began collecting in 1979 focusing initially on the Central West area of New South Wales. He began collecting with John Meredith in 1984 and continued until 1994. In his own right, Rob has recorded 561 interviews hours of performers all over Australia which are all housed in the NLA. He has also made videos some of which are housed at Screen Sound Australia and NLA. Rob has been a strong advocate of dissemination of the material through publishing and performance at major folk events since 1991. Rob is a co-editor of Verandah Music and an occasional producer of folklore programs for the ABC. In 1991 he established, with David De Santi, Carrawobbity Press which published a number of songs, tunes and poems from folklore collections. Rob is assisted in his work by his wife Olya and a large circle of friends.
Alan Scott Collection
Alan Scott (1930-1995) began collecting in 1955. He continued intermittently until 1990 and recorded 67 hours of interviews and performance. Gay Scott and Kevin Baker accompanied him on a number of his field collecting trips. Alan was a member of the original Bushwhackers formed in the 1950s and sang ‘The Drover’s Dream’ which sold over 20,000 copies and was a hit! He continued to perform traditional material with his concertina. For interviews with Alan see TRC 3080 (Rob Willis) and TRC 1721 (Chris Sullivan).
Chris Sullivan Collection
Chris Sullivan (b. 1953) began collecting in 1979. His collection consists of 758 items and 344 hours of recordings relating to Australian folk music, folk-songs, folklore, recitations and reminiscences from country areas of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. He has recorded in his collection a number of Aboriginal performers. He was accompanied on his collecting trips on a number occasions by Mark Rummery and also Dave de Hugard, Barry McDonald and Jack Kevans. Chris also recorded with John Meredith during the early 1980s. Chris also plays and promotes traditional Australian music and songs. Chris and Mark formed with traditional fiddler Charlie Batchelor from Bingara, NSW the influential traditional Australian group, The Horton River Band. For interviews with Chris Sullivan see TRC 2229 (Ian McNamara) and TRC 3065 (Wendy Wicks).
Dave de Hugard Collection
Dave de Hugard (b.1945) collected material from an early age ????. He has collected material for the NLA on a number of occasions and in particular Kathleen McCaughey from Little River, NSW (34 sound reel tapes) from 1986 to 1989 and then a number of other performers in 1995 and 1997. His collection totals 70 hours of recorded time. He has produced a number of recordings featuring traditional material from his collecting trips. For an interview with Dave de Hugard see TRC 3266 (Edgar Waters).
Norm and Pat O’Connor Collection
Between 1950 and 1969 Norman O’Connor, Pat O’Connor and Maryjean Officer travelled throughout Victoria seeking and recording traditional songs, recitations and dance music. All of the 148 tape reels (199 hours) are housed in the NLA. The O’Connors also deposited 18 boxes of related material including some transcripts and/or scores for songs, monographs, serial publications, slides, photographs, account books and assorted notes. For interviews with Norm and Pat O’Connor see TRC 1720 (Chris Sullivan and Kevin Bradley), TRC 2502 (Gwenda Davey) and TRC 4577 (Edgar Waters).
Barry McDonald Collection
Barry McDonald (b. 1955) began his interest in folklore in the New England Region after moving there from Sydney at age 21. He had lived next to Russell Ward who assisted him in his early folklore endeavours. He met Chris Sullivan and Mark Rummery at the local folk club operating in Armidale and formed part of the Horton River Band. Barry has a phD on Aboriginal and settler music form the Univesrity of New England. The collection in the NLA includes 232 items (243 hours) with songs and music from the New England region of NSW dating from 1975 to 1989. for an interview with Barry McDonald see TRC 2858 (Edgar Waters).
There are a number of other collections featuring Australian music, song and recitation from Alex Hood, Bob Rummery, Chris Woodland, Mark & Cathy Rummery, Mark Gregory, Mark Schuster and Maria Zann, Peter Ellis, Peter Parkhill, Ron Edwards, Tom Rummery, Warren Fahey, Wendy Lowenstein and the Wattle Collection.
Using the Oral History Collection at the National Library of Australia
National Library of Australia Catalogue, www.nla.gov.au
The oral history holdings are being progressively added to the Oral History & Folklore Catalogue which provides access by subject, name or project. However, it will be some time before this task is completed. To access items in the collection you will need to complete an Oral History request form. These are available in the Petherick Reading Room where you may listen to tape recordings or view transcripts (where available).
Access to the collection is subject to conditions imposed by interviewees and informants. In most cases access for research is available. However, in some cases material may be restricted for long periods, and in others you may be required to obtain written permission from the interviewee. For most of the collection an access copy has been made, or can be, if requested. Subject to conditions, copies of some oral history tapes and transcripts are available for purchase via the Copies Direct service.
Oral History Folklore Collections
National Library of Australia
Summary of Items in the Folklore Collection, as at February 2004
Dave de Hugard
Gwenda Davey, Children’s Folklore
Gwenda Davey, Oral History of Childhood
Mark & Cathy Rummery
Mark Schuster & Maria Zann
Monaro Folk Music Society
Monaro Multicultural Music and Dance
National Folk Festival, 1983, Adelaide
National Folk Festival, 1984, Canberra
National Folk Festival, 1991, Canberra
National Folk Festival, 1993, Canberra
NSW Folk Federation
Peter Parkhill - Voices of Illawarra
Qld Folk Federation
Wattle Recordings, Edgar Waters
Contact details for the Oral History & Folklore section of the NLA:
Telephone: +61 (02) 6262 1687Fax: +61 (02) 6273 5081