Reel to Reel: digitising sound recordings

Sound recordings not only capture a speaker’s voice, but through oral histories or tradition, also explore events, experiences, and everyday life from perspectives that are not always recorded in written history. 

We have prioritised the digitisation of unique recordings in our collections. Here is a selection you can already access via UQ eSpace

Indigenous Voices

In the 1960s, Elwyn Flint, from the University of Queensland English department, recorded languages of Indigenous Australians as a part of the Queensland Speech Survey. A recent project has digitised, identified, and consulted with Indigenous communities to ensure access for Indigenous community members, descendants of those whose language were recorded, students, researchers and the public.

Elwyn Flint 

UQ History 

In preparation for UQ’s 75th Birthday, John Cole, Fryer Librarian Nancy Bonnin, and others conducted interviews to record the history of UQ. Interviewees such as Dorothy Hill, Humphrey McQueen, and Thelma Atkin, shared their experiences.  

Along with reminisces of the George Street Campus, founding professors, student dances and protests, the interviews capture how fundamentally society has changed. UQ’s first law graduate, Una Prentice, recalled:

[As a female graduate] I had tried to get a job in the Commonwealth, and they had said no, no, we don’t employ women, and the same happened when I went round the legal offices trying to get a job there and I was told all the time, they didn’t employ women. And the State Government told me they didn’t employ women. After the [second world] war broke out and had been going for a while the Commonwealth suddenly wrote to me […] would you come and work for us […]

UQ Alumni at the first Alumni Reunion and Commemoration Garden Party held at Queensland Government Hold. Una Prentice is located second from the left. 

Recent interviews have also been added to celebrate UQ Library’s Fryer’s 90th Birthday; these also include Nancy Bonnin, but as an interviewee discussing her experiences with Leo Hayes.


These interviews reflect the Fryer collection’s strengths. Examples include the Trade and Labour Council of Queensland’s From Lunchroom to Boardroom series, exploring women’s experiences in political movements from the 1930s to the 1970s. As well as interviews conducted by Jim Beatson from the series Communism and political opinion in Postwar Queensland and Harry Spratt’s research into the Queensland Branch of the Communist Party.

"I've always tried to be good little girl...but at heart I'm still a rebel". Poster from the Trades and Labor Council of Queensland Women's Equal Opportunity Committee form the 'Lunchroom to Boardroom' project.

Deadline 2025

Digitisation is essential to preserving these recordings. As the National Film and Sound Archive has made clear in its Deadline 2025 discussion paper, magnetic tape formats are at extreme risk. Consequently, we are currently digitising more of UQ Library’s analogue audio resources, which will be available via UQ eSpace.

Last updated:
26 July 2018