A number of jobs and volunteer positions I’ve held have allowed me to work from home or off-site. For example: The History Group internship I completed in 2009 had me working on source identification projects from home and in 2010 I volunteered as a historical research associate with the Red Cross.
In the same vein, I recently started volunteering with the Multicultural History Society of Ontario (MHSO) on their Discovering Multicultural Ontario Digital Archive project. In this role I’m helping with the transcription of oral histories that have been collected by the MHSO. I can work from home on this project as the MHSO has set up an FTP site and guidelines for volunteers who live anywhere in Ontario.
The MHSO has over 9000 hours of recorded oral history, much of which was recorded on cassette tapes. This current initiative, funded by an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant, aims to preserve and increase accessibility to these oral histories. Over 1200 recordings have been digitized and people across Ontario are helping with the transcription of these recordings.
One of the interesting aspects of this project is that the oral history recordings were recorded across Ontario. As a result, even though the MHSO is located in Toronto and many of its projects have focused on Toronto communities, in this project I have been able to listen to and transcribe oral history recordings from Northern Ontario. Even though I’ve just started volunteering with the MHSO, I’ve already learned a number of interesting facts about life in Sudbury in the early 1900s.
Overall, volunteering with MHSO has reminded me of the value of volunteers and collaboration within the heritage field. The Digital Archive project has also highlighted the time consuming, detail oriented nature of transcription. There is an overwhelming number of archives and museums that hold unprocessed oral history collections, many of which are recorded on cassettes and other slowly deteriorating mediums. It’s great to see a project placing such a high value on oral history and working to make oral history collections more accessible to the general public.