Oral History in the Digital Age

The Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS) was built to empower oral history users to more effectively and efficiently discover information within oral history interviews.  The digital public history creator can link a video or audio file to the OHMS server and then enter searchable data. Searchable data includes metadata, the transcript, and the index.  Indexing can be especially useful.  As one how-to-use video explains, an interviewee might spend an entire interview talking about experiences with segregation but never use the term segregation.  The oral history interview processor can then index the interview, using the terms that users are likely to search.

Unfortunately, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History designed and created OHMS in 2008.  At that time, creating transcripts was cumbersome.  Since that time, numerous applications do much of what OHMS does.  Youtube and Zoom both provide time-stamped transcripts, although these are not indexed. Unfortunately, OHMS is no longer maintained.  

One thing that is confusing about OHMS is that you do not upload anything to it.  “You will need to host your audio or video online somewhere and tell OHMS where to find it.  Then you are able to begin indexing or syncing a transcript in OHMS,” as the OHMS FAQ states.  The user guides did not make this point obvious to me until I made several tries to upload an interview to OHMS. 

When I tried to upload the video to my Omeka site, the file was too large.  So I will need to break down the video into at least two segments if I want the video to be on Omeka.  Meanwhile, I have uploaded the audio file to Omeka to see if I can experiment with OHMS.  But OHMS still does not recognize my interview.  Sigh. Perhaps it is no longer working.  I have spent over an hour trying to get the sync to work.

I will move on to investigate different indexing formats.  What I will likely do is break up the interview into logical segments for my Omeka site and provide the content information in the metadata for what a visitor might want to find. That is, there will be a section on football, a section on the protests, a section on becoming a regent, etc.  Only the ones that are pertinent to the Burns Tower story will go onto the exhibit page.  With short videos of about two minutes, I can then provide a transcript and curate the story of the protests.

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