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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

In their own words

Audio-guide

In their own words app with David Williamson
Video: 50 seconds

In their own words is an audio-guide with a difference. We let the portraits of these remarkable Australians speak for themselves. Be intrigued and inspired by two-minute personal stories told by the subjects and the artists as you encounter them.

  • During your visit to the National Portrait Gallery, look for a portrait with the app symbol. This means it’s one with a story to tell.
  • Open the app, tap the 'scan' icon and hold your device up to recognise the portrait. Then hear the subject or artist in their own words!
  • If you are using the app away from the Gallery, tap the 'subject' or 'portrait' icons to browse and hear the stories.

Audio from In their own words can also be found listed online or when viewing related portraits from the collection.

About the project

Voice and personal histories are both precious and intimate. Layers of personality, presence and identity are conveyed through voice and personal narrative. These stories of key biographical moments have been edited from oral histories, audio recordings, and, for subjects who lived before audio recording was possible, actors voicing their words. Visitors to our Gallery or website can hear over 160 voices. More will be added over time.

In their own words began in 2018 as a ground-breaking collaboration between the National Portrait Gallery and the National Library of Australia. The project drew on Hazel de Berg’s extraordinary audio recordings of Australian achievers held in the Library’s Oral History and Folklore Collection. Over 27 years, de Berg recorded 1290 Australians born between 1865 and 1953 who had made a mark in their fields of endeavour. She began donating her tapes to the Library in 1960. For more information about the interviews and to hear many of the complete recordings, please visit the National Library of Australia.

Acknowledgements

The app was created by our digital partner, Stripy Sock, and is generously supported by the Sidney Myer Fund.

The National Portrait Gallery and National Library of Australia warmly thank Hazel de Berg’s family and all those who have given permission to use these recordings.

We would also like to thank the actors who gave voice to written first person narratives from times before audio recording was possible. They are: Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Joel Horwood, James Thomasson, Anais Maro, Natasha Vickery, Christopher Baldock, Karen Vickery, and Patrick Galen-Mules.

Video transcript

Related information

In their own words

Audio-guide

Always available

In their own words is an audio-guide with a difference. We let the portraits of these remarkable Australians speak for themselves.

Talking heads

About Face article

21 December 2020

In their own words lead researcher Louise Maher on the novel project that lets the Gallery’s portraits speak for themselves.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency