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Yow defines oral history as the recording of personal testimonies of important events or lifestyles, delivered in oral form. In most cases it refers to in-depth interviews [7]. As technology has changed over time, digital medias are used in the field of oral history nowadays in order to preserve and transcript oral transmissions. Due to digital technologies, the practice and the publishing of oral history has changed significantly [1] [3]. The Oral History in the Digital Age (DOHA) tries to deal with these changes and explains them in further detail [5].

A current trend in Digital Humanities is the attempt to share and provide access to oral history online in a cost-effective and efficient way and make it accessible to a global audience. One existing web-based solution is called OHMS (Oral History Metadata Synchronizer), which was developed by the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries [1]. This system facilitates word-based searches and links the search results with the corresponding point in time of the recorded interviews. Furthermore recent efforts try to combine OHMS with other content management systems (OMEKA and KORA) and commercial systems (CONTENTdm) to enhance the users’ possibilities and increase the amount of interviews accessible [1] [4].

Two Applications of oral history

The poster of Johnston can be mentioned as a reflection of this upcoming trend [3]. His ongoing project investigates how helpful local resources are for receptors spread around the world. Therefore, Johnston focused on an oral history case study from Ireland, in which everyday stories in Cork city are collected since 1996 [6]. An example is given in figure 1.

The Cork Memory Map

Figure 1: Example of an everyday story in Cork city [6]

The Irish study provides an insight into subjective perceptions of culture, identity, lifestyle and relationships between inhabitants of Cork city. To estimate how a global audience perceives a local project, empirical techniques and ethnographic methods were applied to a large variety of users. As we may conclude, it is highly important for this project to reach a global audience. To achieve this goal, we have to disseminate the Irish oral history online, which again refers to the mentioned trend of a cost-effective and efficient distribution. In addition, the discussion with a variety of users offers an opportunity for interactions and incorporating new inputs into the research topic.

So far we have seen in the direction that oral history is trending, and we have heard an example based on an Irish case study. In the next paragraph we discuss a second application of oral history.

Hunter et al. describe in their paper the development of a considerable online multimedia archive, which contains documents about the architecture in post-war Queensland (1945-1975) [3]. This is a highly important era in the architectural history of Queensland, but unfortunately not much documentation exists nowadays. To build up an online multimedia archive the University of Queensland, the State Library of Queensland and four architectural firms in Queensland are working together. Information from in-depth interviews are linked with tangible knowledge (books, drawings) from different origins by using Semantic web technologies. First, in-depth interviews are transcribed, and key entities are marked. A further step is the extraction of new information by using RDF graphs, which connect and display interdependencies between architects, buildings and firms. This procedure can be summarized as shown in figure 2. As we have already seen in the first paragraph, again OMEKA is applied as content management system and a variety of different converters [3].

Procedure to create an online multimedia archive

Figure 2: Procedure to create an online multimedia archive [3]

Equally to OHMS, a search engine allows for a specific term to be looked up and linked to the corresponding time in point of the record. The intention is to use this architectural archive as a resource of knowledge for researchers and teachers in fields of architecture and history spread around the world. In comparison to the Irish case study, Hunter et al. do not only try to make information accessible to a global audience and observe their reaction. Beyond that, they try to extract oral history information about relationships between different actors in the post-war architecture of Queensland. This is a continuous process, and the archive is growing step-by-step due to the upload of new recordings. Furthermore, people who worked in the field of architecture during this era are allowed to provide a feedback and improve the online multimedia archive with their knowledge.


First we learned about the current trend in oral history and defined it as providing oral history to a global audience through online dissemination. Furthermore, we mentioned how changes in technology affect oral history. Obviously, the researches of the two applications are going much further than only to provide worldwide access to their recorded and transcribed oral history. Nevertheless, it is a highly important element in their work.

In addition, Johnston uses the opportunity to analyze how the global audience perceives the provided information by using different methodologies. Hunter et al. focus more on the extraction of new information gathered by oral history and try to link it with tangible knowledge. But providing the newly gained interdependencies and relationships to a global audience is also a crucial element in the second application.

Finally, we can summarize that oral history is a unique method to preserve cultural thinking, identities, lifestyles and testimonies for future generations. But this knowledge has to be shared with a variety of users to let them take part in the experiences. Therefore, making oral history easy, cost-effective, and accessible to a global audience is a topic of high importance.


[1] Rehberger, Dean, and Douglas Boyd. “Enhancing Access to Online Oral History: Oral History in the Digital Age (OHDA) and Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS).” (http://dharchive.org/paper/DH2014/Poster-521.xml)

[2] Johnston, Penny. “Local Voices, Worldwide Conversations: Ethnographic Methodologies as a Route to Understanding Meaning and Value of Niche Local Digital Cultural Heritage Resources.” (http://dharchive.org/paper/DH2014/Poster-915.xml)

[3] Hunter, Jane, John Macarthur, Deborah Van Der Plaat, Janina Gosseye, Andrae Muys, Craig Macnamara, and Gavin Bannerman. “Extracting Relationships from an Online Digital Archive about Post-War Queensland Architecture.” (http://dharchive.org/paper/DH2014/Paper-826.xml)

[4] Boyd, D. “OHMS: Enhancing Access to Oral History for Free.” Oral History Review 40.1 (2013): 95-106.

[5] Boyd, Doug, Steve Cohen, Kurt Dewhurst, Brad Rakerd, and Dean Rehberger. “Oral History in the Digital Age ».” Oral History in the Digital Age. (http://ohda.matrix.msu.edu)

[6] “The Cork Memory Map.” CFP Memory Map. CFP Memory Map. (http://www.ucc.ie/research/memorymap)

[7] Yow, Valerie Raleigh. Recording Oral History: A Guide for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira, 2005. 4. Print.