Making sound searchable for the Digital Public Library of America

Case study: DPLA + Pop Up partnership

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Since our founding, Pop Up Archive has made almost five million minutes of sound searchable. Much of that audio is housed by libraries, universities, and historical societies that comprise the nearly 2,000 member institutions of the Digital Public Library of America.

Pop Up Archive and the DPLA partnered in 2015 to offer exclusive discounted services to DPLA partner organizations. Here are some of the ways Pop Up Archive automatically transcribes, timestamps, and provides team editing interfaces for the audio collections of DPLA partners:

Wake Forest University

zsrlibrary-500x500Wake Forest University uses Pop Up Archive to transcribe oral histories that relate to WFU’s Center for Global Programs and Studies. Study abroad is a particular focus of the WFU student experience; about three-quarters of the student body spends a semester in another country.

Archivists at WFU’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections & Archives capture first-hand accounts from American and international students, professors, program heads, and administrators about their experiences in other countries, in Winston Salem, and their view of the global Wake Forest’s future.

Collections archivist Stephanie Bennett says: “By using Pop Up Archive, we are able to generate transcripts that our student assistants edit. These will provide improved accessibility to these illuminating — and fun! — interviews once they go online.”

San Francisco Public Library

The San Francisco Public Library is in the midst of its first user experience service design project. The project is being undertaken by the Magazines and Newspapers Center in order to improve services and patron access to the SFPL’s rich collection of materials. One of the methods involves conducting interviews to explore patron expectations, pain points, and aspirations when they visit the library. The interviews are 30-45 minutes long, and “it’s a challenge to take detailed notes, so recording the interviews is a must,” says Andrea Davis, a librarian at SPFL. “We’re not going to listen and transcribe over 10 hours of tape by ourselves — we don’t have time.”

SFPL uses Pop Up Archive to search through transcripts of their user interviews — for example, searching for the term “parking” to find the point in an interview where a library patron discussed looking for parking near the library. They also use Pop Up Archive as an online tool so staff working on the project can share access to the interviews. “We go through and pull out the nuggets, and are planning a team listening party where we can all hear the library patrons in their own words, to build empathy and get the flavor of someone’s emotions,” Andrea says.

“Pop Up Archive has been a fantastic tool and we’ve utilized it for more than our original intent,” Andrea says. In SFPL’s next stage, they plan to map physical user journeys within the library, using the voice memo app on their cell phones to record interactions as they happen. They plan to experiment with Pop Up Archive to edit transcripts of the audio “trail” in order to add research and observation notes. “This whole project is new for the library — to do service design and research this way,” Andrea says.

Duke Divinity School

Students protest apartheid outside the Duke Chapel, May 4, 1985.
Students protest apartheid outside the Duke Chapel, May 4, 1985.

In 2014, Duke Digital Collections Program Manager Molly Bragg and University Archivist Valerie Gillespie set about digitizing the Duke Chapel recordings in response to divinity students’ requests to access the collection’s sermons, which date from 1946 to 2002. Since then, their team has digitized and made available 1400 audio/video items and 1300 printed manuscripts.

Duke uses Pop Up Archive to transcribe sermons with the goal of tagging and making them searchable by speaker, themes, and Biblical references. The university also uses the transcripts to create closed captioning files for hearing-disabled people. After revising transcripts with Pop Up Archive’s editor, student workers export the time-stamped transcripts as WebVTT files, which display as captions on Duke’s web video player.

The Duke Chapel Recordings web archive allows students to analyze sermons for theological and rhetorical components. It also serves as a historical resource, documenting Duke campus life and world events surrounding the sermons. “An archive of sermons offers [students] a relational time-machine, a gateway to the past where a preacher’s words reach out in a handshake, introducing their time, and place,” says Adrienne Koch, Project Director at Duke Divinity School.

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