Friday, October 19, 2007

Conference Showcases Methods to Make Audio Resources Digitally Accessible

by Amanda A. Hurford, Digital Initiatives Multimedia Developer and Maren L. Read, Archivist for Manuscript Collections

At the September 20, 2007 Ball State Oral Histories Conference, one of the sessions was Search and You Shall Find: Making Oral Histories Searchable with Transcripts and Metadata. View the PowerPoint presentation at

As members of Archives and Special Collections and Metadata and Digital Initiatives, we worked very closely with the Middletown Digital Oral History Collection( This project provided an opportunity for us to become familiar with two tools that make searching oral histories possible: transcripts and metadata. We spoke about this hands-on experience in our conference presentation.

In this session we talked about the advantages of full-text oral history transcripts and provided guidelines for creating them. We addressed how to decide whether or not to embark on a transcription project or outsource to a commercial transcription service.

We also discussed suggestions for what to do with existing transcripts, how to train transcribers, and the tools to make the process easier. In addition, we spoke about some of the difficulties we encountered in our project and the lessons learned.

Creating metadata for a digital oral history project was another key topic covered. Our discussion highlighted the importance of providing structured resource description in the form of metadata records.

We also stressed the need to pre-plan metadata creation. Factors to consider when undertaking metadata for digital oral histories are assigning personnel, determining how detailed your metadata should be, deciding at what stage in the project to create it, and outlining how to use metadata standard Dublin Core.

Another point we addressed was how transcripts and metadata work in conjunction to provide access to digital oral histories. In our project we presented transcripts in PDF format alongside streaming audio interviews in the Digital Media Repository. A plain text version of that transcript is also stored in the metadata record of the audio file. Using transcripts and metadata together in this way enables the retrieval of two records for each interview: an audio interview and corresponding transcript, distinguished by custom thumbnails. Providing the two records simultaneously allows for the best user experience.

For information on the process of transcribing, describing, and presenting oral histories online, contact Amanda A. Hurford, or Maren L. Read,

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