Historical Reminiscents EP 20: Open Source Public History

Black computer screen with command line code on left. Right reads "Episode 20: Open Source Public History"

This week’s podcast episode is all about the intersection of open source digital tools and public history.  I talk about ways that digital history and open source communities can enhance public history practice.  I also chat about my favorite open source public history tools.

What open source tools or platforms do you use as part of your public history practice? I would love to hear about your successes or challenges using open source software in the public history field, leave a comment or send me a message on Twitter.

Mentioned in this episode:
OMEKA
Audacity
Daniel Ross’ Active History post on using History Pin in the classroom.
Voyant

Download or listen now.

Digital Tools For Transcription

In the past when I have worked with audio recordings of oral history interviews I have worked with Audacity for the digitization and transcription of the recordings.  Audacity is open source and does a great job in the digitization process and handles the manipulation (clean-up) of audio files well.  Additionally, Audacity does allow users to slow down the playback rate, which helps a lot in the transcription process.

However the transcription process can be a bit clunky if you are constantly switching between an Audacity window and a word processing program.  I’ve found that using two screens and Alt+TAB can help with switching between programs to replay bits of audio, but the process has never been ideal. 

Enter Express Scribe (possibly accompanied by sounds of transcription joy). As I mentioned in an earlier post I’m currently volunteering with the Multicultural History Society of Ontario (MHSO) as a transcriber on their Discovering Multicultural Ontario Digital Archive project. This transcription gig is what introduced me to Express Scribe as a tool for transcription.

I haven’t bee using Express Scribe for nearly as many different tasks as I use Audacity for, but it has a good setup for transcription.  The interface is super easy to understand and it can be downloaded for free. Setup and figuring out how to use the program for transcription took under ten minutes. Comparatively, I found Audacity great once I got used to it but the multiple toolbars and copious numbers of icons made it a bit daunting at first.

Express Scribe has also been mentioned multiple times on the H-oralhistory listserv as a good option for oral historians.  Personally, I like the program because you can adjust the audio and type all within the same window.  It’s like a playback program and a word processing program combined.

What digital tools do you use in the transcription process?

Photo credit: Keenesaw State University Archives

New Year Heritage Links

Lots of heritage and public history on goings this week.  Some of the stories that caught my attention:

  • In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg recently broadcasted five episodes dedicated to the development of written word and how the word has shaped our intellectual history.  The podcasts are well worth a listen and include detailed descriptions of a number of artifacts held by the British Library. 
  • The US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released the Citizen Archivist Dashboard project.  This digital initiative aims to use crowdsourcing to transcribe, tag, edit, and upload photographs to the NARA collection.  The crowdsouring exercises are framed as challenges as means of encouraging user participation, and are overall visually appealing and simple to follow. 
  • The year’s first #builtheritage twitter chat took place on Wednesday January 4th.  The transcript will be available online in the near future. 
  • The Thinking About Exhibits blog featured a great post on applications that focus on museum objects.