Erin Lawrimore 2015-07-29 11:01:51
JoAnne Smart and Bettye Ann Tillman made history in fall 1956 as the first African American students to enroll in the Woman’s College, now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). Their experiences, along with many of the earliest African American students to attend the school, have been captured since 2010 in an oral history project through UNCG’s Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA). These interviews are indexed and audio is accessible online, thanks to an internal University Libraries grant to support adoption of the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS). African American Institutional Memory Project The African American Institutional Memory Project, an ongoing SCUA effort, ensures that the stories of the earliest African Americans to attend the institution are preserved and made available to current and future researchers. As of May 2015, thirty-five African Americans who attended UNCG between 1956 and 1970 have been interviewed. As more undergraduate courses began using these interviews in their research, we found our method of online delivery was not meeting user needs. PDF transcripts were the only online record of the interviews. Audio was available via CD, if requested, but not provided online. While the PDF transcripts ranked among the highest downloads in our digital collections, many researchers reported it burdensome to search a lengthy transcript to identify passages that might be useful in their work. Internal Grant Funding Acquired An internal grant from the UNCG University Libraries’ Innovation and Enrichment Program gave us the opportunity to use OHMS to provide enhanced access to many of these valuable oral history interviews. SCUA received a one-time grant of $2,500 to focus on time syncing and indexing, at minimum, twenty five of the African American Institutional Memory Project interviews. Additionally, two staff members—David Gwynn (the digital projects librarian) and I (the university archivist)—were allotted time to devote to the project. OHMS was identified as the best way to provide enhanced access to the oral histories. OHMS is a web-based tool developed by the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries. OHMS supports time syncing and indexing of audio recordings to existing transcripts, allowing researchers to more readily search each oral history for relevant information and quickly skip to key topics discussed in the interview. Using OHMS to Enhance Access to Oral Histories Work on the project began in July 2014. The OHMS viewer was installed on a library server, and two folders were created to house files being produced—one for MP3 files and another for XML files exported from OHMS. Additionally, local documentation for the OHMS work flow was created from the existing OHMS user guides. The twenty-five initial African American Institutional Memory Project interviews to be included in the project were selected based upon content and past download rankings for the PDF transcript. With these dominoes in place, a graduate student from the Department of History’s Museum Studies Program was hired to begin work on the project in August 2014. The first step in the student’s work was to prepare copies of audio recordings and interview transcripts for OHMS. This required converting WAV files to MP3, stitching together recordings that had been broken into two files, and deleting extended silences at the beginning of recordings. The transcripts were reformatted to plain text, with special characters replaced, and preface information, including names of interviewer and interviewee, deleted. Once the audio and transcript files were prepared, the student created an OHMS record for each interview. Metadata, including title, interviewer, interviewee, and abstract, was duplicated from the existing CONTENTdm record for each PDF transcript. Syncing interviews required the student to listen for cues and mark in the text transcript the words spoken at the minute marks (1:00, 2:00, etc.). The student indexed interviews by marking in OHMS the starting points of important conversation topics. He was instructed to note segments that were particularly relevant to the aims of the African American Institutional Memory Project—campus life in the 1960s and issues faced by UNCG’s African American students during this time. The OHMS Interview Manager dashboard was used to monitor and quality check the student’s work and export XSL files for CONTENTdm. The student tracked the amount of time spent on each task with each interview. We found that creating enhanced access to an interview with an existing transcript took approximately ninety minutes per hour of interview time. We believe that the time would be reduced if the indexer was the person who actually conducted the interview and/or created the transcript. Approximately fifteen of the ninety minutes were spent reading the interview to get a general sense of subject matter and determine key issues that required noting in OHMS. CONTENTdm and OHMS CONTENTdm, our digital collection management program, posed a couple of challenges in implementing the project. We wanted to provide access to the audio recording through the OHMS viewer in CONTENTdm while also making the PDF transcript available as a printable file. While we initially explored the possibility of a single instance for each interview with both the PDF and embedded OHMS files as parts of a compound object, this option was ultimately rejected when issues arose with having a compound object consisting of a PDF and another file type. As an alternative, two instances now exist for each interview included in the project: one for the audio file, accessible through the embedded OHMS player, and another for the previously existing PDF. The OHMS file and PDF transcript instances are differentiated both by their title and by the icon displayed in the CONTENTdm search results. Additionally, the two instances are linked using the “Related” field in each instance’s full item description. Embedding the OHMS viewer into CONTENTdm was another challenge. While we could provide links out from CONTENTdm to the OHMS viewer, we wanted to embed directly to produce a more seamless experience for researchers. After exploring a number of options for embedded viewer access, our digital projects librarian edited a portion of code in the CONTENTdm DMZ area to embed the OHMS viewer directly in the CONTENTdm window using an IFRAME. Future Challenges University Archives has hundreds of other valuable oral history interviews in our collection currently accessible online only as PDF transcripts. We have, however, identified a few issues with earlier interviews that may limit the scope of OHMS implementation with legacy files. In some instances, the transcripts do not match the audio files. Editing was done both by the interviewer and, sometimes, the interviewee—often without notation of correction in the transcript itself. This makes the transcript an account of what the interviewee meant to say, not necessarily an account of what was actually said. Because OHMS is time synced, single-word differences had negligible impact. But when full sentences or paragraphs were redacted or added into the transcript, we encounter a major issue syncing the audio file to the existing transcript. Prior to creating enhanced access (or even providing access to audio files) to many of these legacy interviews, we must formalize a policy that balances risk against reward, particularly in instances where the editing was done by the interviewee. With some legacy interviews, we face issues related to rights and expectations of interviewees. Many of the interviews were conducted well before the rise of the internet. As a result, interviewees may not be comfortable with the audio recordings themselves being available online. Release forms used on the various oral history projects through the years must be examined to determine what rights we have to provide direct access to the audio files (particularly in cases where they do not match the transcript). Additionally, when dealing with interviews with living interviewees, we may want to contact the interviewee to ensure that he or she is comfortable with us providing online access. Moving Forward While many legacy interviews present challenges, we do plan to explore broader implementation of OHMS in our oral history projects. We have modified our current oral history work flow to incorporate OHMS syncing and indexing by the person who creates or quality checks the transcript. We plan to employ students in the future to continue syncing and indexing existing interviews. With our local OHMS documentation and work flow in place and a sense of the time needed to create this level
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