technologies are opening up new ways of working directly and easily
with audio and video interviews. This is welcome news. Analogue
audio or video recordings are so ponderous and inaccessible that
historians have come to rely on transcriptions. Much is lost in
translation. Whereas spoken language is lively; effective prose
is systematic, relevant and spare. For Michael Frisch, the
more we “completely strive to make the voice audible on the
page, the more we risk making it illegible.” Ultimately, digitization
has the potential to put the “oral” back into “oral
history” by keeping the focus on the original audio-visual
Instead of working up transcripts of the oral interviews, an outdated
and time consuming process, we are working with Michael Frisch at
the University of Buffalo, a former president of the American Oral
History Association, on a revolutionary new high technology approach
to oral history. Frisch has developed Interclipper software that
digitizes, annotates and indexes a videotaped oral history collection,
making it searchable, and therefore usable. It works much like a
book index. Digital oral history offers ways of working analytically
with the material at every stage, and thus opens up a range of possibilities.
Because it permits each passage to be tagged, coded and copied into
an interactive database, Interclipper enables a deeper level of
analysis of oral history interviews.
For example, a researcher will be able to analyse passages (back-to-back)
from all the interviews on specific points of interest such as childhood
aspirations, work life, and so on. Once digitized, the data can
be easily exported in generic mini-file formats for use in a range
of imaginable formats such as power-point presentations and video
CD-ROMs. As a result, Interclipper has the potential to fundamentally
change how we think and “do” oral history.
The Center for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS) is a facility
dedicated to providing faculty members, graduate students and senior
undergraduates who are engaged in oral history research with their
digital needs. Its aims are four fold:
access to high quality digital audio and video that turn formerly
unwieldy text-based interviews into searchable, community-accessible
Support the development of innovative research instrumentation
based on digital technologies.
Concordia into a national leader in digital applications to oral
a strong and vibrant research space where technological and methodological
experimentation and collaboration are encouraged and where students
are involved and mentored.
COHDS houses facilities for digital video and audio cataloguing
and editing as well as the production of DVDs, CD media, and audio
cassettes for research purposes. The lab is equipped to stream research
results and oral history interviews to an online platform. It will
also be home to Canada’s first searchable oral history database.
In consequence, COHRL would act as a hub in the “Center for
Public History and New Media” now taking shape. Digital analysis
and display of the oral history interviews present us with a golden
opportunity to provide leadership in a cutting edge technology being
developed in the United States.