Voices from the Past


Brisbane in the 1930's-40's by the Brisbane Library History Collection.I love listening to people's tales of the past. They are entertaining and often incredible; life really writes the best stories. The Brisbane library's history room has a collection of oral histories that tell lots of stories about personal and political issues that have shaped the city of Brisbane and its residents.

What are Oral Histories?

Oral histories are the recorded memories and stories of people. They offer a personal view of events in the past as told by everyday citizens and strive to include those who have had little opportunity in the past to make themselves heard. They help us to better understand and relate to our community. I'd like to think that instead of viewing history from a distance, oral histories allow us to experience history close-up and personal.

What are the Brisbane Oral Histories About?

For the 25th anniversary of Brisbane's incorporation in 1986, the City of Brisbane launched an oral history project to record the memories of 32 people who significantly shaped the community. From illegal gambling to moonshine stills, Western Day parades to disappearing fire hydrants, the garbage dump to the development of San Bruno Mountain, the oral histories offer a unique perspective on a wide range of--often controversial--issues Brisbane has dealt with since the first residents settled there in the early 20th century.

Where Can I Find the Oral Histories?

The Brisbane library has digitized the original tapes and transcripts. You can come to the library and listen to the sound files on the computer, or read the transcripts. The library has a list of participants (with a brief description of the content of their interviews).

A Little Bit of Brisbane to Take Home With You

To learn more about Brisbane's history, you can also check out these:

Brisbane, by Dolores Gomez and Christy Thilmany, contains lots of great pictures and stories about Brisbane.

Brisbane Bop, by Jimmie Rivers and the Cherokees. This album was recorded at DeMarco's 23 Club in Brisbane (you can hear the audience), which also hosted famous performers Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline.

A Spirit of Independence: A History of Brisbane Before Incorporation, by Oral History Associates, Inc., chronicles the years before Brisbane’s incorporation.

Brisbane, City of Stars: The First Twenty-Five Years, 1961-1986, by Oral History Associates, Inc., details the 25 years since Brisbane’s incorporation in 1961.

Photo credit: Brisbane in the 1930's-40's. Brisbane Library History Collection.


Author Bio:

Stephanie D. just received her MLIS and has been volunteering with Brisbane's History Collection since summer 2010. Wading through boxes of old stuff makes her infinitely happy.

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