Frequently Asked Questions

What is the life story from the interview recorded onto?

I use audio equipment to record family life stories on either CD-ROMs or cassette tapes.

How much does a life story audio recording cost?

A 1 hour audio CD-ROM costs $200 and a 1 hour cassette tape $150.

Do you do video or DVD interviews?

No, Memory Man services do not extend to video or DVD, for two reasons. The first is because clients tell me they find a camera intrusive compared to audio equipment. The second is that videos and DVDs are far more expensive to produce compared to audio recordings; in most cases the final cost is beyond what most people feel they can afford.

Do you edit the audio recordings after the life story interview is finished?

No, because editing is not only expensive but can also result in an unnatural and uncoordinated life story. It is preferable by far to hear the whole interview from start to finish, not only the answers but the questions also.

Why should I get you to do the interview when I could do it myself or get a family member to do it?

Some of my clients have told me it was originally their intention to record their life story themselves or have a family member do it, but for various reasons nothing happened. Others said they tried doing the interview themselves but were disappointed with the results. The problems they related were many and varied:

  • No one in the family seemed to be able to spare the time to do the life story despite their good intentions, and it got to the point where it seemed the job would never get done.
  • No one in the family had reliable recording equipment that could be used for the interview.
  • No one knew what questions to ask and how to conduct an interview effectively.
  • Family members felt somewhat restricted in their ability to conduct an impartial and objective interview of an older family member as they were too close to that person – and often there was the problem of family baggage and taboo topics.
  • Families had given their older loved ones tape recorders on which to record their life stories but nothing got recorded.
  • Families had asked their older folk to write down their life stories, but that hadn’t happened.

The training I have received with the Oral History Association of Australia at the NSW State Library over several years and the many life stories recorded for families to date have given me the skills necessary to write the questions (min. 400), conduct the interview, and produce completed life story packages of high quality.

How long does an interview take?

This depends to a great extent on the age of the interviewee and how interesting the life story has been. To capture the life story of someone in their 70s or 80s takes a minimum of 3 hours.

Does the whole interview need to be done in the one session?

The best results come from a single interview. However they may be spread over multiple sessions if that is what you prefer.

Where do you conduct the interview?

I conduct my interviews at a place of your choice. For most clients this is at their place, where they feel most comfortable.

Can another family member be present during the interview?

Yes, I have conducted several interviews with family members other than the interviewee present.

Can you interview a couple together?

Yes, some of my interviews have been conducted with both partners present. However, best results are usually achieved with a single interviewee.

Do you write a book on the life story from the audio recordings?

No, I do not write the biography myself. However for all my interviews I do write a log of the recordings, which is a list of all the interview topics (180 for a 3 hour interview) in chronological order. I also offer an optional service of a 500 word synopsis of your life story.

However, as the audio recordings do provide the ideal raw material for a book I can arrange for a professional writer to transcribe the audio recordings and edit and write the book.

What do I get for a basic life story interview?

A standard life story comprises labeled audio CD-ROMs or audio cassette tapes with a photo of the interviewee on each of the disks and on the jewel / tape cases, and a log of 60 interview topics per hour of interview. Each set of recordings is stored in a ‘Memory Box’ which also contains an interviewee photo.

Small Memory Box for standard set of CD-ROMs / tapes

Standard audio CD-ROM disk, jewel case & log

Standard audio cassette tape & log

What optional extras can I choose to go with the audio recordings?

You can select:

  • A ‘Celebration of Life’ tape or disk, to be played in the distant future at the funeral service to celebrate the life lived. This recording contains excerpts from the interview.
  • A written Life Sory Synopsis (approximately 500 words)
  • A Single View Log of the entire interview
  • Historic Images relating to the interviewee’s life
  • A Panoramic Photograph of the interviewee depicting how the person’s appearance has changed over time
  • Newspaper Headlines, either from the year the interviewee was born or from the year of arrival in Australia
  • Free Lodgment of a set of the interview tapes / disks at the Oral History Association of Australia, NSW State Library, in it’s database of public recordings.
  • Additional sets of the tapes / disks for family members

What happens if I lose or damage my recordings at some time in the future – can they be replaced?

Yes I will replace damaged or lost recordings, at a reduced cost.

Are there other services you provide apart from life story interviews?

Yes, I have 6 other services apart from conducting life story interviews:

  • I convert tape recordings (including music) to CD-ROMs to suit the modern recorders as well as extend the life of the recordings.
  • I do audio recordings of special family events such as reunions, group reminiscences, and interviews at weddings and funerals.
  • I am a guest speaker for community seniors groups such as Probus, View, Rotary, Legacy, senior citizens, aged care residents, etc. I conduct talks on a number of separate topics including family history, genealogy, writing life stories, memory therapy, reminiscence and memorabilia.
  • I conduct presentations to diversional therapists at aged care centres to pass on my memory therapy skills and to demonstrate how I use the five senses to trigger memory.
  • I teach oral history, including family oral history, at various community colleges throughout Sydney.
  • I teach writing groups how to turn audio recorded memories and reminiscences of family members into a book.

Can I order extra sets of the recordings for other family members?

Yes, you can order additional sets of the recordings prior to the interview and take advantage of a bulk discounted price. Orders received for additional recordings after the interview attract a far lesser discount.

What rights do I have regarding privacy of the interview recordings?

I encourage all interviewees to complete a NSW State Library Privacy Form (belonging to the Oral History Association of Australia, of which I am a member). The standard form may be amended to include any special privacy conditions required by the interviewee. This form governs how the audio recordings may be used in the future. The prime purpose of this form is to allow a copy of the recordings to be lodged in the NSW State Library, free of charge, where it may be accessed by members of the public. Completion of the form is optional.

Who owns copyright of the audio and written interview material - can I copy additional tapes and CD-ROMs myself from the originals?

Memory Man owns copyright of the audio and written material produced from the interview. It is both illegal and unethical to copy your own CD-ROMs and cassette tapes from the copyright originals. All requests for additional copies of recordings must come to me.

Can I contact past clients to enquire about your services?

Yes I am happy to provide you with contact details of several of my past clients.

Apart from you how many other professional oral historians are there in Australia working full time to record family oral histories?

I put this same question to the National President of the Oral History Association of Australia (OHAA) in 2002 and the answer then was about 7 OHAA members. As family oral history has become more popular in recent times there are no doubt a few more full time oral historians now, as well as some non Association and part time people.

Is there a community use for the life story recordings outside of my family?

Yes, a copy of the recordings can be lodged in the NSW State Library, free of charge, and I encourage you to allow me to do that on your behalf. The Oral History Association of Australia, of which I am a member, maintains an audio database of life stories for community use. There is a NSW State Library Privacy Form that grants this permission, and I bring a copy of this form to every interview. Completion of the form is optional.

If I decide to go ahead with the interview, what happens next?

I need to get some basic information from you about the family member I will be interviewing. I usually do that over the telephone. That takes only a matter of minutes and gives me a profile of the interviewee which enables me to research and write a minimum of 400 questions for the interview. A non refundable deposit is payable at this point. Arrangements are also made for a date, time and place for the interview.

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