Everyone has a story to tell

A School of Education presented on August 31st, 2016 by Dr Benjamin Thorn

History is not only the story of big events and great men. Often the experiences of ordinary people can be just as enlightening. As a social historian I have found that valuable data can be gleaned from anyone. Everyone has experienced the past and has lived though historical events. Your next door neighbour can give insights into how events and historical characters were seen and how they affected society. One thing that I have discovered is that, even if they themselves don’t recognise it, everyone has at least one really good story to tell.

This talk takes a number of examples of oral history stories and shows how they can cast considerable light on both social conditions, but also on how big events and characters were perceived. A consequence of this is that encouraging students to delve into oral history or even to just talk to friends, neighbours and families about the memories, can be a useful historical strategy.

Benjamin Thorn has been collecting oral history about the printing industry for nine years. A book based on this project, Keep the Presses Running, has recently been accepted for publication by Australian Scholarly Publishing. He has been the curator of the Museum of Printing at the New England Regional Art Museum and lectures in creative arts education at UNE. He also has an international reputation as a composer. His music is performed around the world and has been published in Australia, Germany, Canada and the United States.