February 15, 2015 by kdaly3
The chapter of Writing History in the Digital Age titled “Creating Meaning in a Sea of Information: The Women and Social Movements Web Sites” (Kish Sklar and Dublin) talked a great deal about generating new knowledge and opening up historical dialogue to people who may not ordinarily use these sites about American women in their research. The information may be pertinent to various disciplines, but audiences may not know this unless the information is presented in a new context in relation to their work and interests. I think incorporating a non-linear database of information based on different variables is also helpful in this context, especially in relation to when the authors discuss the use of sub-fields in women’s history. Not only does this method organize categories (and different types of information can be put into various sub-fields without over-loading the database with repetition), I also think this type of tool can be useful in collaboration, which is something that I think the Oral History in the Digital Age website does well. The site has a great deal of credibility because it relies on contributions of many major institutions that are the voices of best practices in these various processes.
I think the website (Oral History in the Digital Age) can be a helpful tool to those who are interested in various forms of digital tools for use in oral histories, but are unsure of where to start in terms of technologies and best practices. I have often used in when writing about audio-visual materials and am unsure of how to word certain processes. Many things have one definition outside of the archival world, but have a very different definition within the archival world (you can often suffer consequences of disseminating misinformation because of this confusion). I also believe this site is an important tool because it presents questions that sometimes you might not think to consider yourself; for example, the presentation of articles such as Brad Rakerd’s “On Making Oral Histories More Accessible to Persons with Hearing Loss.” Although you cannot necessarily receive all of these articles from the site, it makes users more aware of issues within public history through the use of digital materials.
This is where I think tools such as the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer play an important role. For example, I have a vested interest in the goings-on of OHMS. I am preparing to put the Andrew Avery Collection at the Brown Media Archives into this system. However, the films I am working with are silent, so the transcriptions will consist of searchable terms of activities depicted in the films rather than speech, which may be important to people researching things such as agriculture (cotton, cane grinding, livestock shows, etc.) in the south in the 1930s, but may not turn to home movies initially for this information. As an example of the type of things that UGA uses for OHMS, here is the site for the Nixon/Gannon Interviews that one of my co-workers has recently put into the system. Just like Kish Sklar and Dublin I am of the opinion that this is a vitally important tool for historians and archivists to utilize in order to make certain items searchable that would not have otherwise had an audience.