As I will be attending Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries (September 22-26, Valetta, Malta) to present two posters, I was keen to attend the workshop on Supporting Users Exploration of Digital Libraries (short, SUEDL2013) as well. We (i.e. yours truly, Franciska de Jong, Stef Scagliola and Roeland Ordelman) submitted a demo paper titled Research Environment for Exploring Oral History Collections. In this paper we describe the fundamental principles underlying the Oral History Today interface, which we are developing to improve exploration in oral history collections.
In an earlier blogpost, I described a call asking for scholars interested in being part of a focus group in the development of an Oral History (OH) search interface. This call was also sent by email to 113 scholars in our network, after which fifteen people responded to our e-mail (13.2% response-rate, not bad), and one more scholar responded after being tipped by another scholar. In the past two weeks, I’ve interviewed these fifteen scholars via Skype and phone.
Oral History provides a specific type of data to be explored. Unlike general audiovisual collections as researched in AXES, Oral History collections contain interviews with people who experienced a certain historical event. For example, the collection for the Interview Project Dutch Veterans contains 1,000 interviews with Dutch veterans who’ve served in wars ranging from the Second World War to the war in Afghanistan. Such interviews can be analysed by historians to learn not only what an event meant on a macro level, but how it was experienced by the people undergoing these events.
Oral History collections as these provide an interesting perspective for research, as the collections are sizable, have a clear theme, usually decent metadata, and sometimes transcripts of the full interview. Researchers can use these interviews to pick fragments to provide quotes as illustration to a point, or can search to analyse how different people perceived an event; do men and women talk differently about it, what did it this event mean for common people?