Are you the sort of person who likes solving mysteries? If so we invite you to help us to identify the voice of the mystery American presenter who appears on an audio tape found in the archive of the ANZASW.
When researching a historical archive most hard copy documents give clues as to their origin. The look and layout of a document can tell you something about its provenance. Most organisational documents include dates and references to authors or the people involved in their production. A minute of a meeting might include those who attended and even the minute taker. An old photograph might have the names of the people captured in the image scribbled in ink on the back, and perhaps (if you are lucky) the stamp of the photographer who took the photo.
Coming across historical artefacts in other formats, such as audio and video recordings, can be an exciting find, but they are accompanied with their own particular problems. For one thing, especially with older media like magnetic tape, it might be difficult to access a device with which listen to or view the recording. For another, because magnetic tape can be re-recorded, an audio or video labeled as one thing (if there is a label) might turn out to be another.
At the ANZASW national office we found an old audio recording (shown in the image above) with a note on the front from Liz Beddoe. You should be able to see from the image that someone has written on the box containing the tape (top right) the words “NZASW INAUGURAL CONF.” As part of the digital history project, with great excitement and high hopes, we arranged for a specialist audio company to playback the tape and re-record it in a digital format. The beginning part of the tape was loose and crushed so we knew that we wouldn’t get all of it, but hoped the rest could be saved.
It turned out that this was not a recording from the 1964 Inaugural Conference. The recording is of an American speaker giving a talk called “Mental Health Begins at Home”. There is no such topic on the programme of the 1964 Inaugural Conference. At first we thought it might be a recording from the two-day seminar organised by the NZASW in 1965. This was the seminar by Dr. Don Jackson from the Palo Alto Mental Research Institute on Family Therapy. It seemed possible that someone might have taped this famous US speaker over the top of a recording from the Inaugural Conference. But the topic “Mental Health Begins at Home” is not included in the programme for that seminar either.
Unfortunately, because the beginning of the tape was damaged, we don’t hear the speaker being introduced by the Chairperson. However, if you listen to the tape (all one hour and forty-five minutes of it!) there are some clues. During the early part of the talk the speaker makes a joking reference to President Kennedy and a rocking chair (approximately 6 minutes in). So, that places the recording post Kennedy’s election in January 1961, and prior to November 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated. The question is who is the speaker, and who organised the event?
There are some other clues at the end when the Chairperson intervenes and refers to the speaker as Dr. Bowen or Dr. Boven? At the end of the recording the Chairperson also invites a Dr. Bennett to “move a vote of thanks”. So there’s another clue. Of course the other mystery is why the box has the words “NZASW INAUGURAL CONF.” on the front of it? Well it could be that someone listened to the tape and assumed it was from the Inaugural Conference. Or it could be that the tape was placed in the wrong box? If the latter, then there may still be a recording of the Inaugural Conference out there!
In the meantime, we invite you to participate in our historical detective work and let us know if you come across any other clues.
(Volume will need to be adjusted)