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Our Unofficial History

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Trevor George

on 4 September 2012

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Transcript of Our Unofficial History

... as told by those who lived it Our Unofficial History Who What Why When Where How We are a group of people who really like stories. We all have stories that we like to tell and share and we think lots of other people do to.

So we’ve set up a place where everyone can share their favourite tales of mis-spent youth, fish of enormous size and crazy stuff that has made your life interesting.

This is mostly a family affair with a few others roped in to give us a hand in recording the nation’s oral history. the technical brains behind the website Trevor George I started recording my parents telling their stories in 2009. I wanted to record all the tales I had grown up hearing so that my nieces and nephews could hear them and remember their grandparents long after they were gone.

This was a slow process as there was a lot to tell and many cups of tea to be drunk. One story led to the next, and then the next and so on.

I quickly realized that other people also had many stories to tell and came up with the idea of building a website to share them all. Who are we? Who are we looking for? Who are we doing this for? Our social butterfly Vera George Vera is Trevor’s wife and she has some stories that you wouldn’t believe! Many of these we can’t tell you for security reasons. She manages our social profile. So if you’re on Facebook, or Twitter etc, say hi. She always loves chatting. Kerianne Burroughs Robyn George-Neiche Len George Anne George We are looking for people with a tale or two to tell. It can be pretty much anybody. Since this is the unofficial history of New Zealand, the stories should relate to New Zealand in some way.

It could be about your life growing up here. Or it could be about your big O.E. You could be a tourist and you want to tell us about your adventures here.

You could be an immigrant with tales of your journey to a new life at the bottom of the world, and how you find living here.

We are pretty flexible about who can tell stories. So if you’ve got a story to tell, the thing to do is tell it. I started out doing this for my nieces and nephews so they could have some memories of their grandparents.

But it’s gotten way bigger than that. This is for all New Zealanders and for anyone interested in the history of our country and our people. Just as pretty much anyone can tell us their stories, anyone can share those stories.
We also want to make this as available as possible to all New Zealanders.

That’s why we are going to try and have captions and transcripts for all the video and audio. It’s a big job, but we feel that it is important that as many people as possible have access to our history.

The transcripts also make it possible for people using screen readers to have the story read to them. What is the site about? This site is about sharing our oral history. Sharing the stories that get told around the barbeque, and over coffee in the smoko rooms.

Telling tales of heroic deeds, battling monster fish and rescuing kittens in distress. Boldly going where no gumboot has gone before! So much of history collected and displayed in museums is neat and tidy. Items are carefully labelled and presented under class.

But our history is not so orderly or tidy. And so much of it is funny and interesting and weird – too weird for a museum.

Much of our history too, is really only interesting to a small group of people – those who were there, or are connected to those who were there. The main purpose of the site is to connect people to their history, and to share that history so we may know each other better.

And by knowing each other better we may find common ground on which to build friendships.

And on the base of those friendships we might help to build a society that shares freely and does not regard a stranger as someone to avoid, but as someone whose stories you haven’t heard yet. What do we want? We want stories, lots of stories. We’re looking for anecdotes and tales that are funny, interesting, weird or even a combination of all three.

We want stories that tell what it is like living here, both in a historical context i.e. what you got up to as a kid, and in a contemporary context i.e. what was it like in the Christchurch earthquake?

The main thing about these stories are that they detail your experience either as a New Zealander home and away. Or as a tourist travelling here, or as an immigrant coming to a new land and a new life. What stories can you tell? We’re not looking for your life story in strict chronological order.

We are looking just for the stories you tend to tell people over a coffee or a beer. For example, here’s one of my mother’s favourite stories:
My four year old grandson and I were walking down the street one day and he noticed a young mother pushing a pram on the other side of the street.

The mother was dressed in a very low cut neckline and very high cut hem line dress with knee high boots.

My grandson stopped and his eyes followed her all the way down the street.

When she finally disappeared in to a shop, my grandson turned to me and said - very seriously -
Nice Pram !!!! Ideally the stories will be under five minutes and recorded on video. But we’ll also take audio or stories that have just been typed up. We love photos and images too.

Because the site is accessible to everyone we do have some guidelines about the content of the stories. No profanity
No racism, sexism etc
No gossip, stories about stories or third hand accounts
No stories that are defamatory or likely to cause offence

Basically if you can’t reasonably tell your story to a young child, then it is unlikely to get published on our site. Why are we doing this? We’re doing this because we love listening to the stories our parents and grandparents have been telling us for ages.

The problem is, once the story tellers are gone, the stories sooner or later, go with them.
We want to preserve those stories so anyone can share them.

We want to make it possible for grandchildren who never really knew their grandparents, either because there were too young, or because they never got the chance to connect with their grandparents, to have the means to get some insight into their own family history and see the people who made that history.
But it is more than just family. It’s everyone. We want to preserve all those tales of rugby trips away, of girl-guide camps, of sneaking a crafty smoke behind the bike-sheds, of all the small tales that make up our collective history. Why is it important? We think this is really important as our history is something more than a few dusty old moa bones. Our history is about people and their lives, and while the preservation and presentation of historical artefacts is very important, we think that our oral history is equally important.

Our history gives us a connection to those who went before. It shapes us and defines who we identify with. Much of what each of us thinks and feels is influenced by that stories told by our elders and friends. Also, many of the lessons we have learned were also learned by our parents and grandparents.

As the story tellers move on, their stories are lost, and with that loss we lose a part of our history that no archaeologist can dig up and replace.

Not only is the content of the story lost, but the personality of the story teller is also gone. That is why we think it is so important for the stories to be told on video, by the person who lived the tale. This didn’t get very far until my sister Keri, moved back home and we got to talking about it. It turned out she had been thinking along similar lines. Suddenly the idea kicked off and we got stuck into it.

I built the site, and now I’m working on adding new features while the others focus on getting everyone’s stories uploaded. Museums can't cater to all those small groups. But using the internet, we can.

One this site we can have stories that are rally only interesting to your family, or sports club, or cultural group, or just your friends. All these stories are welcome.

And by sharing them you enrich the understanding of what it is like growing up in the islands at the bottom of the world. And you can also see what it was like for others growing up here too. Why should you get involved? Your stories, big and small, are as much a part of our history as any celebrity, politician or sports star. Your stories are part of our history, and as such deserve to be shared.

This is a place where you have a voice and an audience, where your stories can touch someone and make them laugh, or make them think, or even make them cry.

By sharing your stories you are helping us preserve the one thing no other nation on earth has, our history. When do these stories take place? When can I send my stories? When will my stories be published? We like all stories, young and old. Your story might be about your childhood, many, many…. many years ago. Or it could have happened yesterday. We don’t care, as long as it’s a good story. We are working mostly trying to capture stories told by our elders, as we want to preserve as many of their tales as we can before they are lost.

But don’t let that stop you recording your tale about the fish you nearly caught yesterday. You know, the one that dragged the boat backwards, and nearly pulled you over the side, it was so big! You can send us stories any time you like. Just copy them onto CD or DVD and post them to us with anything else relevant to the stories.

Don’t forget to sign the consent forms etc . Please remember: do not send us any original items. We can’t send them back and we are not qualified to handle and store historical artefacts. Once we got your stories, we’ll look through them to make sure there is nothing that contravenes our terms and conditions, like swearing etc.

And we’ll check that the paper work has been done.

Then we’ll get the video and / or audio captioned and upload the video and any other resources to the site.

Depending on the workload we have, this might take a couple of days from the time we receive your stories. Make sure you include your email address and we’ll let you know when we put them up so you can check them out and let your friends and family know. All discretion around what gets published, and what doesn’t, is held by the publishers at Our Unofficial History.

We may choose not to publish a story for a number of reasons. If your story is not published, get in touch with us and we’ll let you know why.

It may be the quality of the video wasn’t good enough, or there was static on the audio. If you want a story taken down for any reason, just let us know and we’ll take it down for you. Where do the stories have to take place? The stories don't necessarily have to take place in New Zealand. They may be about your big O.E. or deployment overseas. They may be about a holiday to the pacific islands, or a shopping trip to Melbourne.

Where things get a little tricky is telling stories about living in another country were you emigrated to for a while. Or stories in your home country before you emigrated here.

We are hoping to set other sites up so other countries can record their unofficial history as well. So it may be that your stories will have a home on those sites. Where can I send my stories? Address 1
Address 2 Where can I see my stories? Once your stories are published, they’ll be available on the website under the Our Stories section. You can browse for your name as an easy way to find them.

We are also working on syndicating the stories out so they can be viewed on other websites.

So if you have a website and you’d like your stories to be on it, you can get a feed of your stories to display on your own site.

How cool is that? How long does it take to get the stories up? That really depends on workload. It typically takes about half an hour to three quarters of an hour to process a two minute video. This also depends on what other collateral was supplied, like photos etc.

If you send us the video nicely edited with a caption file already made up, then there is less work for us to do, so your video will go to the front of the queue and be uploaded sooner.

We’ve made a tool to help with creating captions for the videos that you can use to speed things up for us. How can I help get stories? There are more stories than we can gather just on our own. So we’re looking for Unofficial Volunteers to go out and record the stories for us.

We’ll give you an info pack with tips on how to capture the stories and how to get them ready to be uploaded to the site.

So if you’d like to help us preserve our unofficial history, get in touch and we’ll tell you how you can get started. How can I help with keeping the site running? This site is free to everyone to tell their stories and to read and view everyone else’s stories. But it still cost us money to run it.

So if you’d like to donate or sponsor us, then we’d love to hear from you. We think our oral history is priceless so we’re not going to tell you how much to donate or to sponsor us.

Every little bit counts, so if you’d like to help us out, please get in touch and we’ll chat with you about your options. Mother of the family - you could call me the co-producer - of the workers.

I'm responsible for spotting spelling mistakes and finding stories.

When Trevor first floated the idea of this website, dedicated to people's historical ( or hysterical) moments in their lives, I had no concept of how it would grow.

But growing it is. Every day now, I cast my mind back to earlier days, and find myself remembering incidents that may have been observed as serious at the time, but absolutely hilarious now.

If I can do it, so can you.
Full transcript