Digitale Geschichte und Historiographie

Oral History as a multimedia and multidimensional presentation challenge

Oral History is a multidisciplinary, multinational field based on a format of recorded, usually sit-down interviews, where the past is documented through personal narratives of life experience. In the early 2000’s, a new approach to processing and managing oral histories was introduced based on timecode indexing made possible by software environments. This work can be referred to as Oral History Digital Indexing (OHDI), and it represents a suite of activities, tools, methods, and interfaces that have made oral histories more accessible both with and without transcripts, whilst reconnecting navigable text to original recordings for listening and watching. OHDI allows for oral history to be represented in visual, dynamic forms far more palatable to users than the previous default--a collection of transcripts.
Pioneering OHDI work was done by Michael Frisch and The Randforce Associates, with whom the author worked with on a number of consulting projects between 2002 and 2018. The focus of these projects was distinctly on comprehensive timecode indexing, the use of annotation as an alternative to word-for-word transcription, and deployment of custom controlled vocabularies (CVs) organized visually as a spatially-meaningful content map. These CVs function like back-of-the-book term indexes providing better “front end” user access, but they have they also been adapted for research applications to organize sets of qualitative analysis codes. Through a post-doctoral research position at the University of Luxembourg, the author is introducing and integrating these OHDI methods into oral history development plans in Luxembourg. Several representative tools, interfaces, and CVs used to make oral histories more multimedia and multidimensional will be presented, all of which will be influential to the in-development “Luxembourgish Oral History Initiative.”

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