A project of Brooklyn Historical Society

Accessing CBBG through the Digital Humanities

Posted on

March 20, 2015

I'm pleased to announce that the Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations (CBBG) oral history collection is now open for research! The complete collection of over 100 oral history interviews is available for use in the Othmer Library and a portion of the contents are accessible online here on the CBBG website.

An exciting feature of the CBBG website is a new digital humanities application known as OHMS, or the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer. OHMS, developed by oral history wunderkind Doug Boyd and his team at the University of Kentucky Libraries, tackles an inherent challenge in oral history archives, i.e. accessing the oral history via the recording manifestation vs. transcript manifestation. While the audio recording provides the richness and context of the narrator's voice, the transcript offers researchers the capacity to conduct keyword searches throughout the interview. OHMS solves this dilemma by marrying the audio recording to the transcript, thereby making both manifestations of the interview searchable.

Let's take the oral history with Ericka Basile as an example. Basile, an artist who grew up in Tennessee and lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, is the daughter of Haitian immigrants. Throughout her interview, she discusses the Creole language from both a personal and historical perspective. To find all discussions related to "Creole" in the transcript and audio recording, follow these 4 easy steps:

  1. Move the toggle switch to TRANSCRIPT
  2. Do a keyword search for "Creole" in the search box. OHMS will provide a list of instances where Basile and the interviewer mention the word. 
  3. Click on an instance in the list. The transcript will scroll to the corresponding sentence.
  4. Click on the nearest time-code on the left-hand side of the transcript. The audio recording will jump to corresponding sentence.

By marrying the transcript to the audio recording, OHMS provides researchers with unprecedented access to oral histories.

Another method of OHMS navigation is through indexes created by CBBG staff and interns. We've broken the transcript down into sequential segments based on the content of the interview. In the Basile interview, for example, you could go directly to a segment titled, "Haitian heritage and ethnic diversity in Tennessee" at moment 37:47. Since OHMS provides a direct link to each segment, you can send a link to the "Haitian heritage” segment. The recipient will then open the link to start the audio recording at 37:47.

OHMS is a truly amazing research tool and I encourage you to explore the application through the CBBG website. To launch OHMS, go the CBBG website and select LISTEN. Choose a narrator from the list by clicking on a name. At the bottom of the narrator page, select SEARCH SYNCHRONIZED AUDIO AND TRANSCRIPT. You will be directed to a new page with the OHMS application.