Digitizing Oral History

teacHello all.  I thought I would share a new research article that got published today in OCLC Systems & Services.  I have a pre-print available if you don’t have access to that journal.

Digitizing oral history: can you hear the difference?

ASBTRACT

Purpose – The purpose of this study is to answer the questions: Can students discern the difference between oral histories digitized at archival quality (96 kHz/24-bit) versus CD-quality (44.1 kHz/16-bit)? and How important do they believe this difference is? Digitization of analog audio recordings has become the recommended best practice in preserving and making available oral histories. Additionally, well-accepted standards in performing this work are available. However, there is relatively little research that addresses if individuals can hear a qualitative difference in recordings made with best practices versus those that have not.

Design/methodology/approach – In all, 53 individuals participated in the study, where they listened to three sets of oral histories and had to decide which was the archival-quality recording versus the CD-quality recording and mark their answer on a survey.

Findings – Students could discern less than half of the time on average which was the archival quality versus the CD-quality recording. Further, after listening to the differences, they most often indicated the difference was “a little bit important”.

Practical implications – This research does not suggest that archivists abandon well-established sound digitization practices that produce results that audio archivists (and those able to hear fine-grain audio differences) find superior. Rather, it does imply that additional work may be needed to train listeners to discern these fine-grain differences, and appreciate the highest-fidelity replication of original audio recordings.

Originality/value – This research addresses a gap in the literature by connecting audio digitization practices to its impact on listener perception.

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Differences between Digital Archivists and Digital Asset Managers

View of McKeldin Library from the Mall with blue sky and clouds.This Monday, I will be presenting the paper When Archivists and Digital Asset Managers Collide: Tensions and Ways Forward at the Archival Education and Research Institute 2015 at the University of Maryland.  It gets at the sticky issue, what is the difference between digital asset managers and digital archivists anyway? Below you will find a short description of the study:

ABSTRACT

While archivists have been developing methods to appraise, accession, arrange and describe born-digital records, a new class of professionals—the digital asset manager—has developed.  The digital asset manager sees her role as creating a repository of assets that can be easily and efficiently reused by staff.  Given the closeness of this role to the archivist, this case study will explore the question: what issues arise between archivists and digital asset managers when they are working together in the same organization?  To study this, the researcher spent one year as a participant observer at a major art museum located in the northeast United States.  He found that indeed tensions do exist firstly because the digital asset manager and archivists do not recognize the different roles each is playing and hence enter a kind of competition.  Secondly, this tension stems from an intellectual disagreement about how digital record keeping will play-out over the next several decades.  The study will conclude with suggested ways of moving forward so that both digital asset managers and archivists can further their respective missions.

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