Giving history a voice: introducing our partnership with History IT

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This week, we are very happy to announce Pop Up Archive’s partnership with HistoryIT to make archival sound more discoverable on the web. Together, we’ll provide an end-to-end multimedia archiving experience, so that significant sound recordings can be integrated into web-based archives that are routinely indexed by Google.

Read more in the press release.

A big part of our mission at Pop Up Archive is to create better access to recorded sound, so organizations can save, find, reuse, and monetize their content. Archives, libraries, and museums address this challenge constantly. Others find themselves stewards of “accidental archives,” like San Francisco-based radio producers The Kitchen Sisters, with whom we began our work. But there are no simple, web-­based tools for quickly accessing the historic voices contained within digital audio — not even at some of the biggest institutions in the U.S. We set out to change that by automatically transcribing and tagging audio files, using speech-to-text software uniquely trained for media and cultural heritage organizations, without requiring anyone to painstakingly listen through every file in its entirety.

  • Hidden media  — audio and video that used to be physically stashed away on shelves, on hard drives, behind locked doors — should be accessible and reusable in new and different contexts.

  • It’s time to break down institutional silos that keep incredible content from being discovered on the web.  

  • Adding a search engine optimized text layer to media improves productivity and facilitates new revenue streams.

But we’re not archival consultants: Pop Up Archive provides easy-to-use technology, addressing one of many aspects of the larger digital archiving ecosystem. And this is where HistoryIT comes in. HistoryIT helps build digital archives from start to finish, from feasibility studies to comprehensive digitization, metadata creation, and curated portals to digital archives.  It’s a good thing we found each other, because our services complement each other perfectly.

Our first project together is the audio files from the Digital Mayoral Archive at the University of Indianapolis, which will contain more than 1.5 million records subject-tagged at the item level, including hundreds of hours of sound from the archives of former Senator Richard Lugar.

Building digital archives is not about access for the sake of access. It’s about what meaningful access enables:

  • New and improved information exchange and dialogue with local communities.

  • Immediate relevancy and ability to inform current events through a living archive of searchable voices, both contemporary and historical, cross-referenced with documents and images.

  • Opportunities to monetize content through search engine optimization, new audiences, and resulting increased donor support.

Institutions are beginning to understand the wealth of opportunities that will be afforded them if they clean up their archives and treat them not as static artifacts of the past, but rather as active tools for community and relationship building. Technology has enabled archival collections to be instantly accessible around the world — and they can (and should) be accessible to the public in ways that fit with how the public finds information on the Internet today. Here’s a hint: the public doesn’t use finding aids or Library of Congress subject headings. They ask Google a question and see what it tells them. When it comes to meaningful public access, if there’s a struggle between the finding aid and the search box, we know who’s winning.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s let history speak for itself — there’s no time to waste. Drop us a line and get started today.