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National Centre of Biography Podcasts

CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS: True Biographies of Nations? Exploring the Cultural Journeys of Dictionaries of National Biography, 1 July-2 July 2016

Friday, 1 July, State of the Art: Opportunities to Transform National Dictionaries of Biography

Session 1
9.00-9.30am
NLA welcome: Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, Director-General
ANU welcome: Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC, ANU Chancellor

9.30-11.00am Using Lives? Utilizing the rich databases we are creating
Prof. Melanie Nolan (ADB & ANU), ‘Using Lives: the ADB and its related corpora’
Christine Fernon and Scott Yeadon (ADB, ANU), ‘NCB/ADB websites: The value of value adding’
Chair: Dr Malcolm Allbrook
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Session 2
11.30-1.00pm Global biography? The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, big data and transnational networks
Dr Philip Carter (ODNB and Oxford University), ‘What is national biography for? Past, Present and Future Journeys’
Prof. Sir David Cannadine (ODNB and Princeton University), ‘Oxford in the World: The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and Global Biography’
Chair: Prof. Paul Arthur
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Session 3
2.00-3.30pm Bringing the nation back in? A debate on the contemporary role of national dictionary projects
Em. Prof. Jock Phillips, Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Dr Malcom Allbrook, Indigenous Australian Dictionary of Biography
Kent Fitch, computing and database specialist
Chair: Prof. Nicholas Brown
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Session 4
4.00-5.30pm Panel discussion: Revising dictionaries
*Prof. Susan Ware (American National Biography & Harvard), ‘Why Gender Matters: Fostering Diversity in the American National Biography’
*Turlough O'Riordan (Dictionary of Irish Biography & Royal Irish Academy) ‘The Irish World: How to revise a long-standing dictionary project’
*Prof. Elizabeth Ewan (Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women & University of Guelph) ‘Revising the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women: Questions of Identity, History and Technology’
Chair: Prof. Ira Nadel (former editor Dictionary of Literary Biography, University of British Columbia)
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Saturday 2 July: Challenges Facing Digital Biographical Dictionary Projects

Session 1
9.00-11.00am Moderator: Dr Karen Fox (ADB, ANU): Setting the scene: History of Australasian biographical dictionaries and the issues they face
Kerry Kilner, University of Queensland (AustLit)
Dr Nikki Henningham, Australian Women’s Register
Kay Walsh, Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate
Dr Odette Best, Indigenous Australian Dictionary of Biography
Ass. Prof. Gavan McCarthy, eScholarship Research Centre (Encyclopedia of Australian Science)
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Session 2
11.30-12.30pm Publishing in the Digital Age: privacy and access, rights
Dr Philip Carter (ODNB)
Prof. Melanie Nolan (ADB)
Prof. Susan Ware (ANB)
Chair: Dr Nicole McLennan
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Session 3
1.30-3.00pm Beyond the Nation: Writing a Dictionary of World Biography
Barry Jones, AC FAA FACE FAHA FASSA FTSE (University of Melbourne, formerly Visiting Fellow Commoner, Trinity College, Cambridge) in conversation with Prof. Sir David Cannadine
Chair: Dr Samuel Furphy
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Helen Trinca 29 October 2015

Helen discusses writing her book Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John (Text Publishing 2013).

Biographers regularly come across material that is sometimes uncomfortable; sometimes difficult to prove – and not necessarily central to their subject. That's when they must decide whether to publish and be damned or excise the information from their drafts. Madeline St John, an impoverished expatriate writer who was short-listed for the Booker Prize, was the daughter of well-known Liberal politician, Ted St John. Their relationship was often fraught, but should Ted's personal life as an adult be included in an account of his daughter's life?

Helen Trinca was born and raised in Perth and initially worked as a journalist for the West Australian. Since then, she has worked mainly for the Australian, as well as undertaking brief stints with the ABC, the Sydney Morning Herald, and even at one point with the ANU Reporter. She is currently Managing Editor of the Australian.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 30 July 2015.

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Philip Ayres 30 July 2015

Philip discusses writing biography: the generation of forward momentum, the question of fate vs will, and the concept of essence in regard to character.

Philip is the author of acclaimed biographies of Owen Dixon: a biography (2007), Fortunate Voyager: the worlds of Ninian Stephen (2013), Malcolm Fraser: a biography (1987), Prince of the Church: Patrick Francis Moran 1830-1911 (2007), and Mawson: a life (2003). 

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 30 July 2015.

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Andrew Tink 25 June 2015

Andrew discusses his latest book, Australia 1901 – 2001: a narrative history (2014), a story is driven by people: prime ministers, soldiers, shopkeepers, singers, footballers and farmers, be they men or women, Australian-born, immigrant or Aboriginal.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 25 June 2015.

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Alison Alexander 28 May 2015

Alison discusses writing The Ambitions of Jane Franklin (Allen & Unwin) which won the 2014 National Biography Award.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 28 May 2015.

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Sheila Fitzpatrick, 30 April 2015

Sheila discusses her books, My Father’s Daughter (2010), a memoir of her father, the radical historian Brian Fitzpatrick, and her own childhood in Melbourne in the 1940s and '50s; A Spy in the Archives (2013) which told of her experiences as a young historian researching her dissertation in Moscow in the 1960s and On Stalin’s Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics, due for publication by Princeton University Press this year.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 28 May 2015.

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Estelle Blackburn 26 March 2015
Estelle Blackburn, author of Broken Lives (1998) and The End of Innocence (2007), speaks about her experiences of writing a biography of serial killer, Eric Edgar Cooke (1931-1964).

Estelle Blackburn OAM is a former Perth journalist who now works for the NSW Minister for Health. Broken Lives won her a Walkley award in 2001 and the Western Australian Premier’s book prize for non-fiction in 1999.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 26 March 2015.

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Life Writing, 26 February 2015

Led by NCB PhD candidate, Sophie Scott-Brown, this workshop discussed issues relevant to life-writing and, more generally, to the humanities such as:
• is biography simply a poetic form of biology?
• what is the line between biography and psycho-analysis?
• does a leader flourish or fall through the telling of a life-story?
• do personal details undermine big ideas?
• iconoclasm: important cultural critique or misanthropic hatchet-job?

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 26 February 2015.

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Dr Nigel Starke, 28 August 2014

Dr Stark examines the ethical challenges in researching and composing biography, illustrated by his experiences in writing a life of Russell Braddon (Proud Australian Boy: a biography of Russell Braddon, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2011) and his recent book on novelist and traveller Anthony Trollope’s visit to Australia and New Zealand in the 1870s. (The First Celebrity: Anthony Trollope’s Australian Odyssey, Lansdown, 2014.) 

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 28 August 2014.

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James Button, 31 July 2014

James discusses what writing an accidental biography of his father, the Labor Senator and Minister, John Button Speechless: A Year in My Father's Business (2012), taught him about his father, Australia and himself.

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 31 July 2014.

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Peter Fitzpatrick, 27 March 2014 ‘How to outwit your biographer: a study of the contrasting challenges of misleading evidence in my two dual biographies, Pioneer Players: The Lives of Louis and Hilda Esson and The Two Frank Thrings.’

Peter Fitzpatrick has published widely in the field of Australian theatre, and is the author of two ‘dual biographies’: Pioneer Players: The Lives of Louis and Hilda Esson (1995), which was shortlisted for four national awards, and The Two Frank Thrings (2012), winner of the National Biography Prize.

He has also produced two novels, Death in the Back Pocket (1993, with Barbara Wenzel) and Promontory (2001), and two feature film screenplay adaptations – Hotel Sorrento (1995) for which he won an AFI Award, and Brilliant Lies (1997).

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 27 March 2014.

listen to the podcast (*Warning: This podcast contains some strong language)


26 June 2014: Constructing and Deconstructing Ideas of Character in Life Writing

Led by PhD candidate, Sophie Scott-Brown, this workshop explored the ways in which we construct and deconstruct ideas of character in life writing.

How do we come to get a sense of someone? How do we look for clues that tell us something about a person and their character traits? How do we fit these against the wider story that we are attempting to tell: what, for example, are the implications for the idea of character in a biographical history as opposed to a historical biography?

The recording was taken at the NCB's Biography Workshop held at the ANU on 26 June 2014.

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Updated: 30 July 2016/ Responsible Officer:  Director, NCB / Page Contact:  Web Publisher