Announcing our NEH Grant: Pop Up Archive keeps on growing with PRX

Announcing our NEH Grant: Pop Up Archive keeps on growing with PRX  

Pop Up Archive is thrilled and honored to be among the recipients of $34 million in grant funding announced by the National Endowment for the Humanities last week. Together with our incredible partners at the Public Radio Exchange, Pop Up Archive received one of seven Digital Humanities Implementation Grants. The grant is a follow-on to a Digital Humanities Start Up Grant received in 2013 in collaboration with The Kitchen Sisters.

Also, big congratulations to our friends at WFMT Chicago and the Complete Studs Terkel Digital Archive, who were also awarded an NEH grant last week to support the development of their archive of broadcasts from Chicago radio legend Studs Terkel. Get ready for a delightful onslaught of archival audio gems: Terkel’s complete archive adds up to over 5,000 recordings!

We can’t wait to make these recordings — and many other historic voices — discoverable, and we’re grateful to have the generous support of the NEH and an awesome partnership with PRX. In short, we’re thrilled to keep building Pop Up Archive for you!

Thanks for sticking with us. Watch out for the exciting things we’ve got in the works.

Digital doesn’t mean permanent: Using the Internet Archive to protect against “erase all”  

To many, the effort to preserve audio files ends at digitization. After all, a physical object — like a record or even CD — decays. A string of data on your computer doesn’t. But what if you delete the string? What if the computer breaks? The truth is, managing digital files comes with its own set of risks.

As we transition into an all-digital media landscape, digital materials can be even more prone to loss than physical recordings. “Born digital” files can easily be lost irretrievably. Whether a destructive coffee spill or an overzealous hard drive purge, it’s disturbingly easy to lose the source files for your audio. 

So how do you protect your most precious audio files? Enter, the Internet Archive: The Internet Archive (archive.org) is an Internet library based in San Francisco. It was created with the mission of preserving materials on the web for generations to come, even in the face of rapidly changing file standards and operating systems. In addition to public domain books, films, and other digital media, they also store hundreds of thousands of hours of audio. And with Pop Up Archive, you can easily contribute your collection to their growing library.

Pop Up Archive lets you preserve audio on Internet Archive servers in just one click. Simply select the Internet Archive option while creating a Pop Up Archive collection, and a copy of each audio item page will be “filed” at the Internet Archive — ensuring that your most valuable recordings become part of the public record.

Digital doesn’t mean permanent: Using the Internet Archive to protect against “erase all”  

To many, the effort to preserve audio files ends at digitization. After all, a physical object — like a record or even CD — decays. A string of data on your computer doesn’t. But what if you delete the string? What if the computer breaks? The truth is, managing digital files comes with its own set of risks.

As we transition into an all-digital media landscape, digital materials can be even more prone to loss than physical recordings. “Born digital” files can easily be lost irretrievably. Whether a destructive coffee spill or an overzealous hard drive purge, it’s disturbingly easy to lose the source files for your audio. 

So how do you protect your most precious audio files? Enter, the Internet Archive: The Internet Archive (archive.org) is an Internet library based in San Francisco. It was created with the mission of preserving materials on the web for generations to come, even in the face of rapidly changing file standards and operating systems. In addition to public domain books, films, and other digital media, they also store hundreds of thousands of hours of audio. And with Pop Up Archive, you can easily contribute your collection to their growing library.

Pop Up Archive lets you preserve audio on Internet Archive servers in just one click. Simply select the Internet Archive option while creating a Pop Up Archive collection, and a copy of each audio item page will be “filed” at the Internet Archive — ensuring that your most valuable recordings become part of the public record.

“I am prepared to die”

These were Nelson Mandela’s words while on trial in 1964. Yet Mandela’s infamous speech was almost lost to history:

https://www.popuparchive.com/embed_player/%2313%3A%20The%20Day%20Nelson%20Mandela%20Became%20Nelson%20Mandela/17519/12841/801

As described by Radio Diaries in “Mandela: An Audio History,” the original Dictabelt courthouse recording was left collecting dust in a basement of the South African Broadcasting Corporation until a researcher unearthed it, many years later. Another powerful reminder of the need for better audio access, if we don’t say so ourselves!

“I am prepared to die”

These were Nelson Mandela’s words while on trial in 1964. Yet Mandela’s infamous speech was almost lost to history:

https://www.popuparchive.com/embed_player/%2313%3A%20The%20Day%20Nelson%20Mandela%20Became%20Nelson%20Mandela/17519/12841/801

As described by Radio Diaries in “Mandela: An Audio History,” the original Dictabelt courthouse recording was left collecting dust in a basement of the South African Broadcasting Corporation until a researcher unearthed it, many years later. Another powerful reminder of the need for better audio access, if we don’t say so ourselves!

Guided by Digital Voices

5 unexpected insights from automatic speech recognition

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Pop Up Archive has been hard at work implementing new speech recognition software for our partners at organizations like NPR, StoryCorps, and the Hoover Institution. The result of this work means better auto-transcripts, and better auto-transcripts mean better access into hours upon hours of spoken content locked in digital audio.

Along the way, we’ve learned some surprising things about the state of automatic speech recognition. Here’s our crash course in the workings of speech-to-text software:

1. Speech-to-text software learns language like people do.

All automatic speech recognition software learns from whatever data it’s given. So, like a person, the more “well-read” your software is in a particular area, the more it will understand.

2. The human standard for perfect transcription is being questioned.

The gold standard for transcripts has always been human transcription. But as machine learning gets better, a human transcriber won’t necessarily transcribe more accurately than a computer for unfamiliar dialects. Speech-to-text software is trained on many voices, so it can interpret dialects from all over the world. Check out this 2011 Google Tech Talk on “Superhuman speech recognition.

3. Speaking clearly can make you harder to understand.

Since most speech software is trained on naturalistic pronunciations — that is, how you would say a word in a real conversation — speakers that over-articulate may not be properly understood. For example, to clearly pronounce the “t"s in "butter” would go against the Standard American English pronunciation, which is closer to a “d” sound.

4. Not all vocabularies are created equal.

When you create a language model, it’s not just the number of words in the model that contributes to accuracy – it’s how well their distribution matches those of the content. 

5. We’ve only scratched the surface. 

Speaker recognition. Accurate punctuation. Comprehensive geographical and biographical knowledge….

All of these features are not only possible in automatic speech recognition, but will soon be on their way into your own Pop Up Archive auto-transcripts. As we integrate the new software into Pop Up Archive over the next few months, you’ll see  major improvements to our automatic transcription and editing tools. We’ll keep you posted as our new features become available!

hackersofsv:

“What got us into this are the voices themselves, hearing this amazing World War II broadcaster from 1945 and realizing that is how Americans experienced their world then. We’re constantly looking back on our pasts, reflecting on milestones in our collective history.

We have so much text-based history in books and proceedings, but recorded sound has been around for 100 years now and there is still no reliable way to search and access it. You still can’t see inside and search through an MP3. Well, until now.”

Anne Wootton | Pop Up Archive: Search engine for sound.

Thanks to Dani for this lovely feature of Anne, Pop Up Archive co-founder. We have now officially been deemed "Hackers of Silicon Valley.” Read more of her insightful profiles at Hackers of Silicon Valley.

hackersofsv:

“What got us into this are the voices themselves, hearing this amazing World War II broadcaster from 1945 and realizing that is how Americans experienced their world then. We’re constantly looking back on our pasts, reflecting on milestones in our collective history.

We have so much text-based history in books and proceedings, but recorded sound has been around for 100 years now and there is still no reliable way to search and access it. You still can’t see inside and search through an MP3. Well, until now.”

Anne Wootton | Pop Up Archive: Search engine for sound.

Thanks to Dani for this lovely feature of Anne, Pop Up Archive co-founder. We have now officially been deemed "Hackers of Silicon Valley.” Read more of her insightful profiles at Hackers of Silicon Valley.

Four Archival Picks for the Fourth of July

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Bust out your speakers, sprawl out on a picnic blanket and enjoy these Fourth of July picks from the archive: 

1. I’ll have the gospel bird with a side of rabbit fries, please. Finding America through its food. America Eats: A Hidden Archive – The Kitchen Sisters

During the 1930s, the WPA sent dozens of journalists, including Zora Neale Hurston and Eudora Welty, all throughout the country to document how America’s immigrant communities shaped local culinary traditions. Although the program, entitled “America Eats,” was shut down at the outbreak of World War Two, in this piece, The Kitchen Sisters continue the grand legacy of national food reporting.

2. Independence Day on the eve of America’s entry into WWII.  FDR’s Fourth Of July Address (1941) – WWII Broadcasts 

President Franklin Roosevelt gives a Fourth of July address in Hyde Park, New York just months prior to America’s entry into WWII. Evidently already ramping up for U.S. participation, Roosevelt proclaims that “the fundamentals of [freedom established in] 1776 are being struck down abroad.” This is also the recording in which Roosevelt famously said:

… the United States will never survive as a happy and fertile oasis of liberty surrounded by a cruel desert of dictatorship.

3. Everybody has their own American dream, but some of us have to work a lot harder than others to enjoy their piece of it Coming to America – Snap Judgment

Host Glynn Washington invites you to “put on your sunglasses and open up the fire hydrants for Snap Judgment’s Fourth of July special; amazing stories about people making America their home.” One highlight: a second generation Chinese American growing up in rural Virginia starts receiving threatening letters from the KKK, signed “the Wizard.” After her non-English-speaking mother suggests she write back, she adopts “The Wizard” as her whimsical penpal, hoping to swap stickers and playground stories. 

4. How the Declaration of Independence inspired Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy – Illinois Public Media: Focus 580

In this interview with Focus 580, Columbia Law professor George P. Fletcher claims Lincoln was more inspired by the Declaration of Independence than the Constitution, which he felt only preserved the rights of the propertied white male elite. You know that “four score and seven years ago” line in the Gettysburg Address? It doesn’t date back to the historic document you would expect.