Baylor University Institute for Oral History Introduces Online Audio Files

February 3, 2014
The first full-length audio files of transcribed interviews in the Baylor University Institute for Oral History are now available for online listening and research.
The Institute announced in late October that the mp3 files and transcribed interviews with Roger Conger, a former Waco mayor and recognized local historian, and Maggie McLennan Gibbons, the daughter of a freed slave, were selected to be the initial files posted because of their ties to Waco and McLennan County.
Dr. Thomas L. Charlton, the founding director of the Institute, conducted six interviews with Conger from 1975-77. Conger is the author of A Pictorial History of Waco, The Best of Brann the Iconoclast, and Texas Rangers Sesquicentennial Anniversary: Pictorial Edition, among others.
Conger, himself, oversaw the interview with Gibbons in 1968. Gibbons was 83 years old at the time of the interview. Her father, Dan McLennan, was a freed slave from the McLennan family, from which McLennan County draws its name.
Prior to 2007, oral history interviews were recorded on analog reels and cassette tapes. Baylor's Ray I. Riley Digitization Center converted the Conger and Gibbons interviews to digital format.
Steven Sielaff, research assistant with the Institute for Oral History, noted that in previous years such items would be sent off campus to be converted and would need to be funded by grant funds or budget "remainders." However, technical and personnel growth within the Digitization Center in recent years has allowed the collaboration to achieve greater gains.
"In cooperation with the Riley Digitization Center we have developed best practice policies for digitization and preservation, and as a result we are now in the 'exciting' phase of digitization," Sielaff said. "Right now we are focused on our cassette collection as that is the medium Stephen [Bolech, audio/visual digitization specialist] can process quickly."
With the planned addition of more equipment, the Digitization Center anticipates being able to increase work with the reel items by next fall.
Sielaff said the Digital Projects Group at the Center, headed by Darryl Stuhr, began support of online audio files via the searchable online university database, ContentDM.
"Therefore the synthesis of digitized or born-digital files (interviews conducted since 2007 have been recorded digitally) and the medium to exhibit them is where we find ourselves now," he said. "The first examples of our audio online are tied mainly to news items or recent outside use of our collection, as you can see on the (In the News) section of our website."
Sielaff produces the oral history website items as a means to increase awareness and access while highlighting items in the collection and testing how they might want to display audio items in the future.
"Mass production and upload of the online audio is down the road still, as we have to convert our preservation audio files into something more suitable for a browsable database," he said. "This is something, of course, we are working toward, and something I specifically see as an evolving part of our mission here at the Institute for Oral History."
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