Friday, October 19, 2007

Digital Initiatives and Special Collections News

by John B. Straw, Assistant Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections Digital Oral History Conference Hosted by University Libraries

On September 20, 2007, 84 librarians, archivists, and information technology professionals from 14 states attended Can You Hear Me Now? Digitizing the Voices of the Past, a conference on digitizing oral history hosted by the Ball State University Libraries. The one-day conference, which was held at the Alumni Center, was co-sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, Center for Middletown Studies, and the Ball State Department of History.

Attendees came from as far away as North Dakota, Utah, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania to hear presentations by University Libraries’ personnel and external speakers from the University of Louisville, Kent State University, Indiana State Library, Indiana State University, IUPUI, and other institutions to discuss issues related to best practices, standards, metadata, transcription, and other topics on audio digitization.

The conference began with a session on “Planning and Funding an Oral History Project.” Brenda L. Burk, Philanthropic Studies Archivist at IUPUI, outlined the steps for developing an oral history project using a problem solving technique called STAIR (State the problem; Tools; Algorithm; Implementation; Refinement).

Connie Rendfeld, Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Consultant for the Indiana State Library, followed with a presentation on “What Do Funders Look For?” Focusing primarily on LSTA grants, she discussed elements of good proposals, including clearly defined goals, staff expertise, budget, and following grant guidelines.

Cinda May, Coordinator of Library Digital Initiatives at Indiana State University and project manager of the Wabash Valley Visions and Voices Digital Memory Project, concluded the session with an overview of the oral history component of a digital history project. She used examples of planning, research, and interviewing from the “O Miners Awake” oral history project.

Fritz Dolak, Copyright and Intellectual Property Manager of the University Copyright Office and Special Assistant to the Dean of University Libraries at Ball State, presented a session on copyright issues for digital oral history projects. In his presentation “Friends, Romans, and Countrymen … Lend Me Your Ears: An Audible CliffsNotes Trek through Copyright Issues in Your Oral History Projects,” he discussed some copyright basics, important dates relative to copyright law, fair use, privacy and confidentiality concerns, and important elements of oral history project forms.

Keynote speakers Luke “Eric” Lassiter and Elizabeth Campbell described the “Other Side of Middletown” oral history and ethnographic project that they conducted with Ball State students as part of a Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry class during their time at Ball State University. Lassister is now Director of the Graduate Humanities Program at Marshall University Graduate College and Professor of Humanities and Anthropology. Campbell is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Composition and TESOL at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Lassiter and Campbell were joined by Hurley Goodall, former Indiana State legislator, who delivered a few well received brief words on the importance of the “Other Side of Middletown” project that documented African-Americans in Muncie, Indiana. Audio and transcripts of the interviews from the project are available in the University Libraries’ Digital Media Repository,, as part of the Middletown Digital Oral History Collection.

James A. Bradley, Head of Metadata and Digital Initiatives at Ball State University Libraries, and Jeffrey Green, Senior Sales Engineer at Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne, Indiana, started the afternoon session off with presentations on the audio digitization process. In his presentation “Going Native: A Process Oriented Approach to Digital Oral History,” Bradley discussed definitions, standards, and processes for audio digitization. Green followed with useful information on examples and costs of audio digitizing equipment.

Amanda A. Hurford, Digital Initiatives Multimedia Developer in the University Libraries, and Maren L. Read, Archivist for Manuscript Collections for the University Libraries, shared their experiences in developing metadata and transcripts in “Search and You Shall Find: Making Oral Histories Searchable with Transcripts and Metadata.” They have provided a brief synopsis of their session in an article in this issue of the newsletter.

The conference concluded with a session describing some current digital oral history projects. Carrie Daniels, Associate Director of the University Archives and Records Center and Co-Director of the Oral History Center at the University of Louisville, discussed using CONTENTdm to provide access to oral history collections at that institution.

Kathleen Medicus, Special Collections Cataloger at Kent State University, described the project to digitize and catalog oral histories about the 1970 shootings on the Kent State campus. John B. Straw, Assistant Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections at Ball State, gave a brief overview of the Middletown Digital Oral History Collection project that was just completed. Responses to conference evaluation surveys indicated that attendees found the information useful and the conference well organized. The conference presentations are available at

To see photos, For more information, contact John B. Straw, Assistant Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections,, (765) 285-5078.

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