Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oral Histories in the Digital Age

Maren L. Read, Archivist for Manuscript Collections, and Amanda A. Hurford, Digital Initiatives Multimedia Developer, shared their experience and expertise on digital oral histories at the Oral History Association 2008 Annual Meeting held in Pittsburgh, PA. It drew oral historians, archivists, and librarians alike from around the United States and countries such as Great Britain, Finland, and Iraq.


The meeting, held October 15-19, featured a range of speakers addressing the theme of “Oral History in the Digital Age.” Read and Hurford presented as part of a panel discussion on organizing and using large oral history collections. Their paper, “Voices Representing Middletown: An Oral History Project for the Digital Age,” focused on the advantages of using a digital content management system, such as CONTENTdm, to present, store, and access digital oral history interviews and transcripts. The Middletown Digital Oral History Collections, http://libx.bsu.edu/collection.php?CISOROOT=/MidOrHis, were showcased as part of Ball State University Libraries’ Digital Media Repository and as a model for using a digital content management system.

Their talk addressed how the system allows students and researchers to search for, obtain, and use digital oral histories more effectively — making use of digital age technologies, customizability, and the ability to access resources within the context of a larger digital library. Attending the OHA Conference also provided them opportunities to learn how oral historians and information professionals are providing access to oral history collections online. Some of the sessions of particular interest were “Challenges of Digital Collections” and “Collecting, Sharing, and Teaching Oral History in the Digital Age.” Issues such as copyright, transcribing digital oral histories, and providing access to clips of interviews versus full interviews were topics of lively discussion in many sessions

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