oral history collection

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In the late 1970s Dr James Gleeson AO, Australia’s leading surrealist painter, interviewed 98 Australian artists in their studios to discuss their works that had been acquired by the National Gallery of Australia. As an artist, curator, writer and administrator, Gleeson brought a unique perspective to these conversations. The recorded interviews form the basis of a significant resource on Australian visual arts.

The recordings are accompanied by 2000 reference photographs of the artworks and transcripts of the interviews. Because of the fragility of the media, the interviews have been migrated to digital files to ensure the preservation of the material and to increase access to it.

The interviews have historic and cultural significance as primary research material in the study of contemporary Australian art. They provide personal insights into how the art works were created and their enduring influence on Australian society. This collection also provides an additional context – the story of the development of the National Gallery’s Australian art collection at an early period in its history.

The James Gleeson Oral History Collection has been inscribed into the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register 2008 as being of significant Australian cultural heritage.

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Detail above: Jacqueline Mitelman Portrait of James Gleeson 1997 gelatin silver photograph 40.0 x 31.0 cm National Library of Australia© Jacqueline Mitelman 2008. nla.pic-an14169107