Oral History & Recorded Sound Collection
The sound collection consists of oral history recordings, period music, radio interviews, and programs which are concerned with Australia's involvement in war and armed conflict, as well as oral history recordings. There are over 5000 items (over 7000 hours) of recordings in this collection.
The Memorial's sound collection covers the First World War, Second World War, Korean War, the Malayan conflict, Vietnam, and peacekeeping operations. About 90% of recordings are oral histories, many of which were recorded in the Memorial’s purpose built sound recording studio. Our studio has seen an incredible range of people interviewed, from veterans of the Second World War to highly decorated veterans of Afghanistan; high ranking Defence force leaders, to the partners of soldiers in their early years of service.
The other 10% of the collection comprises actuality recordings, for example; radio transmissions; operational sounds of weapons and equipment; letters/messages recorded by servicemen overseas to their families in Australia, especially from the Vietnam era; radio variety programs and documentaries; radio broadcasts, consisting of recruiting announcements, commercials, jingles, speeches and addresses; songs and military band music. The collection has grown over the life of the Memorial itself, thanks to donations, on site recording, field recordings, field interviews and deployments by historians and curators to Australia’s military areas of operation. While these days interviews are recorded digitally, the collection also holds a large number of analogue recorded sound formats such as vinyl and shellac discs, tape cassettes and reels. The Sound section stores analogue material in climate controlled conditions and where possible, digital copies are made available for access.
Of special interest is the Keith Murdoch Sound Archive of the Second World War: it has 365 indexed and transcribed interviews representing over 800 hours of recordings, and is available to the public in the Research Centre. The collection also holds a large number of oral history interviews with WW1 veterans. Hear some fascinating stories from our Youtube channel.
You can search our collection, which provides access to over 1,700 recordings. Researchers can listen to MP3 digital files in the Research Centre, and online from our website, where access provisions allow.
How to record oral histories
If you are interested in recording oral histories, our Guide to recording oral histories will help you.
Icons of the collection:
- Anzac Day requiem by C.E.W. Bean, 1946
- C.E.W. Bean’s account of Anzac, 1953
- Hall of Memory opening ceremony, 24 May 1959
- Prime Minister Keating’s speech at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 11 November 1993
Planning to research, visit or donate an item to the collection?
A large percentage of film and sound collections are digitally available from the Memorial’s collection database, but if you wish to enquire about film and sound items not on display or otherwise accessible, please send an email to the Film and Sound curators: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are planning to visit the Memorial, either to offer a film or sound recording to the National Collection, or to research material which is only accessible on site, please contact the Memorial at least two weeks before your proposed visit. We advise you not to make travel arrangements until you have spoken with a curator as the item you wish to see might be inaccessible due to preservation or other restrictions. Due to the number of enquiries we receive and ongoing project work, if you visit the Memorial without an appointment we cannot guarantee a curator will be available to see you when you arrive. Contact the Donations team to offer to donate an item www.awm.gov.au/collection/donations
Curators provide limited research assistance only about the Memorial's collection and Australian militaria generally. Please email your enquiry using the details below and we will assist you as much as possible. If you require more detailed information, see this list of research agents who use the Memorial’s Research Centre.
PLEASE NOTE: Curatorial staff are not available for meetings or to answer enquiries on weekends, public holidays or the period between 25 December and 2 January.