Curating Group

Curating: Group Members

Mike Frisch
Linda Shopes
Sarah Cunningham
Doug Boyd
Nancy McKay
Mark Tebeau
Michael Taft
Scott Pennington

** Preliminary Group Summary

Mission/Vision Statement: The mission of the Curation Working Group is to develop recommendations for the curation or care of oral history collections that a.) are responsive to the ways digital tools and media are transforming the practice of oral history; b.) are based on the current state of knowledge in our areas of focus; c.) support traditional uses and encourage new and creative ways of using recorded interviews, especially in digital media; d.) attend to varying needs and capacities of diverse practitioners and the institutions with which they are affiliated; and d.) are suitable as tool for both planning oral history projects and managing existing oral history collections.
Areas of Focus: Our specific areas of focus are three from the original IMLS project proposal: preservation of digital audio and video oral history; transcription and alternatives to transcription, also to include cataloguing and collections management; and access/interfaces, or content management.
Within these broad areas, key issues include:
• The field or practice of Oral History is dominated by discussions of doing interviews (method) and making sense of what’s said in interviews (theory). Much less attention is paid to the middle step of curation, so that interviews are broadly accessible for multiple uses. The Curation Working Group aims to make curation an equally central element of practice; and to close the communication gap between those who do interviews and those who manage collections.
• Processing, annotating, and indexing interviews take on new meaning within a digital environment. How, for example, “annotate” an audio or video file, to correct a misstatement of fact?
• While oral history projects must be attentive to a broad range of future users and intended uses, methods of curation are related to the goals of a given project.
• Preservation Standards for digital audio recordings are rather well established; for video, less so. Yet given the current state of technology, video recordings are becoming the norm for oral history. We need, therefore to give greater attention to the latter.
• Transcription is a long established as the “best” means of accessing an oral history interview; and paper is still recognized as the most stable medium for long term preservation. But even at its best – and an unknown number of transcripts are not done well – a transcript is only an approximation of what is recorded; it is a translation from one medium to another and omits the critical aural or sonic features of an interview. In a digital environment, we need to consider alternatives to transcription and when, in the entire lifespan of a project, transcription may (or may not) be appropriate or necessary. We need to ask: what’s the best method for facilitating access, given intended use and available resources? Should we think, in the language of archivists, of more product, less process? Should access trump accuracy?
• Current curating systems are built around the interview as the discrete cataloguing unit and thus are unsuited to searching within and across interviews. Similarly, contnt management tools typically used in museums (e.g. Past Perfect) are a poor fit for oral history.
• There are no consistently applied metadata standards for oral history.
• Considering issues of access, what’s the relationship between project generated authority files and user generated tagging? Are there ways to provide both, create an appropriate balance?
** Curating: Group Member Assignments

Assignment of Tasks:
• Identify core principles for the preservation of digital audio recordings; identify and assess current practice.
• In consultation with the Video Working Group, identify principals and practices for the preservation of video recordings.
• Identify and assess various means of synchronizing audio/video recordings with transcripts.
• Identify and assess methods of transcribing that facilitate incorporation as text ad hypertext into electronic publications
• Identify and assess oral history projects that have applied methods other than transcription for providing access to interviews (e.g. the Virtual Oral/Aural History Project Web site at CSULB; SHOA project Web site; History Makers Web site.
• Identify and assess content management systems, especially for their capacity to navigate and search within and across interviews.
• Identify and assess metadata standards used in cataloguing oral history.
• Develop a selected set of bibliographic materials relevant to our mission and foci; include these within the final report issued by OHDA as a resource for oral history curators. (All)
• Identify model projects relevant to our mission; include these within the final report issued by OHDA as a resource for oral history curators. (All)
• Develop a decision tree that will allow diverse institutions make informed decisions about how best to care for oral history materials, based on the pros & cons identified in the above assessments. {NOTE: The decision tree will need to take into account several variables, including budget, staff capacity, number of interviews, intended use, etc. and cannot simply align itself according to the “small, medium, and large” model we’ve discussed.}
Question: Accomplishing these tasks may involve more time than allocated for working group members. What kind of support might we expect from OHDA staff? Can consultants assist with some of these tasks by providing expert opinion?
** Preliminary Set of Consultants

These are the people we have mentioned as possibilities Elizabeth Lohman, Stephen High, James Oliveri, Michael Christel, Grace Agnew, Individuals involved in the Densho Project


** Curating: Intellectual Property

Liaison: Linda Shopes

** Curating: Technology

What is the state of the art in voice recognition software? What methods are available for automated, speech-based annotation of transcripts?
** Curating: Video

Liaison:Scott Pennington