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Nurses training at the Waikato Hospital
HCL historic photos, no. 10476.

Oral Histories

For centuries history was passed down by word of mouth, but with the development of writing in many civilisations, people came to rely on written documents for information about the past.

Sound recording technology has once again enabled us to collect and use information communicated by speech, reflecting what it was like to be there. This is called oral history. It is a powerful means of recording and preserving the unique memories and life experiences of people, enabling us to eavesdrop on past events, feelings, attitudes and ways of life.

This has been very much part of the Maaori tradition, but is now given another dimension by being 'captured in time', so that future tellings do not alter the details.

The primary form of the oral history document is the recorded human voice, with a written transcription or abstract accompanying it. However, we have begun using video recordings as well as audio recordings.

We have over 300 oral histories in the Heritage Collection on Level 3 of the Central Library. The topics are as diverse as architecture, immigrants, Hamilton suburbs, farming and the Hamilton Gardens. They are a wonderful source of information and really bring the subject alive, creating vivid and accurate pictures of our past. We also have several excellent books and magazines to help anyone interested in recording an oral history of their own. 

While the majority of our oral histories are on magnetic tape, these have now been digitised and are progressively being made available online through the Hamilton Heritage Collections website. 

Oral History Databases

⦿  International Oral History Association

⦿ National Oral History Association of New Zealand - Te Kete Korero-a-Waha o Te Motu   


Hamilton Libraries