Opening up audio archives through human-­computer collaboration

Pop Up partners with The New York Public Library and The Moth to build a new model for accessible audio

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 1.10.09 PM

We’re excited to announce our part in an innovative audio search project that combines two of the things we love most: libraries and storytelling. Thanks to the generous support of The Knight Foundation, The New York Public Library was awarded a grant in partnership with The Moth and Pop Up Archive to prototype an automatic transcript generation and correction model.

Spearheaded by Project Lead Alexandra Kelly (NYPL) along with Michael Guerra (The Moth), the $30,000 grant will be used to create searchable audio collections that combine Pop Up Archive’s automated transcription technology with community engagement efforts.


The Moth is a New York based non-profit organization that takes the art of storytelling to the live stage. Their catalogue of recordings goes back 18 years, featuring amateur and experienced storytellers alike. The Moth podcast is downloaded over 27 million times a year, and the radio show is heard by a million people each week.

As part of the project, Pop Up will transcribe and analyze over 800 recorded stage stories from The Moth’s archives. As for the vast collections of The New York Public Library, the grant will focus specifically on the Community Oral History Projectoverseen by NYPL Labs. The Community Oral History Project is an ongoing effort to collect stories from around New York City, with over 1,000 oral histories and counting.

Earlier this year, we worked with NYPL Labs to prototype a crowd-powered transcript editing tool with their oral histories of the disability experience: Visible Lives. (Read the case study here.) Over the next year, NYPL and The Moth will build on this work and draw upon their communities to make these collections searchable with time-stamped transcripts, edited and annotated by community members.

At the end of the prototyping period, a public hackathon and oral storytelling event will be held to celebrate the project’s progress as well as support the creation of new tools and standards for making audio searchable. Together with Pop Up Archive’s automatic metadata, and the support of the public to correct and add upon that data, this grant ensures accessibility for these collections for many years — and audiences — to come.

Together We Listen: NYPL, The Moth, and Pop Up Archive

2 thoughts on “Opening up audio archives through human-­computer collaboration

  1. […] Last year, we profiled the innovative way NYPL is combining automatic transcripts from Pop Up Archive and crowd-correction tools for over 100 oral history recordings about disability. NYPL made the content of these recordings instantly searchable through automatic transcripts, and are now galvanizing NYPL community members to make the transcripts more accurate and readable for hearing-disabled audiences. If you’ve been following our newsletters, you might have already read about how Pop Up Archive is partnering with The New York Public Library and The Moth to build a new model for accessible audio. […]

Comments are closed.