Catching up now that I’m back from a family reunion: The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age. What is happening to our collection of sound recordings now that we’re turning the corner to digital formats? This August 2010 publication is published by the Council on Library and Information Resources and the Library of Congress.
Background, as stated by Librarian of Congress: A collection of “disturbing anecdotal evidence” described the thread to sound recordings (dating back to the 19th century) came to the attention of Congress, which passed the The National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-474). That law directed that the Librarian of Congress “...implement a comprehensive national sound recording preservation program…” and study the issues that need to be addressed in order to preserve our national heritage in sound recordings. This publication is part of the result.
From the abstract:
This is the first comprehensive, national-level study of the state of sound recording ...Read More
I was interviewed for the Genealogy Gems podcast back in June, at the SCGS Jamboree in Burbank. Lisa Louise Cooke, podcast host and Chief Gemologist, released Episode #97, and it features our discussion. (Our interview happens about 24 minutes into the podcast.)
Thank you, Lisa, for interviewing me. Since Lisa and I spoke not long after I’d given two presentations (interviewing family/all about digital audio recording equipment), I happened to have all kinds of recording equipment with me, so I offered to also record the interview using my kit (scroll down for photo of my “recording studio in an Otter Box”—I also wrote a post to I describe how I bought it—it’s a few years old, and Things Have Changed Since Then.)
Oh, and also—click all photos to enlarge.
Show notes and Equipment Updates
Since then, Zoom ...Read More
What happens the person who’s usually the interviewee borrows your fancy digital recorder and becomes the interviewer? What happens when your Mom goes across the country and will see someone you’ve been wanting to interview for, like forever? Do you say, Okay Mom, please ask these questions. Oh, and would you record it? How do you make using the recorder as simple as possible? Will it work out?
The other week, my Mom went from West Coast to East Coast to attend her 60th high school reunion. I loaned her my easiest-to-use recorder with some very basic instruction. And hoped for the best.
Background: The stories I want to hear
My gradmother worked for the General Electric Company twice—in the 1920s before her children were born, and again from 1941 until she retired in 1966. The person I’ve wanted to interview—a woman whose initials are NF—was mentored by my grandmother. They both worked in an industry where women professionals were A Rare Thing.
Here’s something else that’s important: Grandma lived on the other side of the country.
Grandma died a few months ...Read More
Podcast memories of Katrina and the flood, from Louisiana State University’s Oral History Program. This is the second in the Katrina retrospective, using oral histories.
The MP3 audio podcast (playable right in the browser window) contains numerous clips from interviewees.
It was through listening to this podcast that I learned of the Floodwall exhibit and oral history that I wrote about in the previous post.
(Stick through the first minute of audio of the recording—unfortunately, the first 50 seconds of the 27-minute recording is boomy with that icky metallic note of excessive audio compression. It seriously gets much, much better after that. I nearly clicked away a few seconds in, thinking the entire recording would be like the first part, but I was very glad I stuck out the first minute.)
Some highlights from the podcast, with recollections of Katrina:
How memories of Hurricane Betsy (1965) helped one person decide what, exactly, to ...Read More
How can you possibly imagine the destruction of an entire city? How do you imagine an event so impossibly large? How do you get past “the mind boggles”? Floodwall is an art installation, a “Wailing Wall” with an oral history component. The brainchild of Jana Napoli of New Orleans, Floodwall is a way to wrap your mind around the destruction of New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina and the Flood.
Her art installation is a collection of household drawers, scrounged from the post-flood detritus from cleaned out houses. When Napoli returned back to New Orleans after the flood, she was stunned by the silence of the empty city. “I saw these emptied out drawers and thought, ‘Each one of these is a household.’ I began to collect them.” On the back of each drawer, she wrote the address where she picked it up. She couldn’t stop collecting them.
Napoli: “The problem is, where do you save—the first 50 were easy; they went out in the garage—where do you save 700 dresser drawers while they dry out and fall apart?”
How can a person imagine the immensity of ...Read More
Samson said they were going to ship the Zoom Handy H1 July 30, but they’re shipping the product as of today. the Zoom H1 Handy is available at Amazon (affiliate link). Based on the product specs (I have not yet seen it), my answer to the question, “What recorder should I buy?” will change. I’ll be saying, Get the Zoom Handy H1, people. Why? CD-stereo quality (and higher) recorder, recording in WAV format, will be available for 99 bucks. And it has one-button recording. Sweet. Very, very sweet.
I got off the fone a little while ago with a spokesperson for Samson’s Zoom line of products, confirming very important items about this recorder. The news is good, people. True one touch recording (press the button and the recording begins). And a zippier start-up time to power the unit on.
Why is this good news? A little background…..
That was then, this is now
Last month, when people would ask me, “What recorder should I buy?” I’d tell them about the Samson Zoom H2 Handy—Samson’s previous lowest-cost portable digital audio recorder.
But I’d also tell them about two of the most significant downsides to the Zoom H2—it takes 30 seconds for the unit to power on, and it has ...Read More
I’m at the Genealogy Jamboree in Burbank. You can follow twitter chatter about the conference at the hashtag #scgs10. This also serves as a demonstration to Jennifer, with whom I am talking here in the lounge where the genealogy bloggers hang out… Jennifer is not a geneablogger; in fact she is unfamiliar with what this whole blogging thing is, exactly. So, when words don’t suffice (or they obfuscate), then a show and tell helps. I hope. Her friend Vikki is also watching; in fact, she’s offering better wording suggestions than I first came up with. So this paragraph is a group effort.
Celebrate the Archives in our midst. June 9, 1948 was the founding of the International Council of Archives. The anniversary is suitable for celebrating the founding of those institutions which keep and maintain the collective memory and documents of our society and culture.
Go visit some archives today! To whet your appetite, here are some archives and listings.
Oral History collections, as listed by In The First Person
White House Tapes.
Between 1940 and 1973, six American presidents from both political parties—FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, and Nixon—secretly recorded on tape just under 5,000 hours of their meetings and telephone conversations. The Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Program is a unique effort aimed at making these remarkable historical sources accessible.
Why is this day Deborah Tannen day? According to Wikipedia, it’s her birthday. Which is the same as my birthday. Yippee! Tannen is the author of the books You Just Don’t Understand and Talking from 9 to 5 – about the style of discourse. It’s a discipline called socio-linguistics. Or, how language shapes interactions between people. In addition to talking about how language between the sexes is sometimes a cross-cultural communication, and about how the language of work affects who does what and who gets the credit, Tannen also talks of communication within families.
In her book, I Only Say This Because I Love You Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs, and Kids When You’re All Adults, Tannen gets into the whys and wherefores of communication mixups and cross-signals within families. I’m so glad to have her input on this, because as one individual with one family, I feel very un-credible saying, “Wanna interview family? Do this. Worked for me!” Having her research on conversations within families is very helpful—it helps get me around some of the YMMV - your mileage may vary - circumstances.
Connection vs Control
Where did she go? Why all the new posts, then silence? For the last three days I was at a conference devoted to the web software upon which this website is built. Learned many good things that will go into the next major revision for this site. It’s Thursday, but it feels like a Monday after a very long weekend. A verrrrrrrry long weekend.
Aaaaaand it’s only a week (+ a day) until the Genealogy Jamboree in Burbank.
My head will be down, completing my two presentations on Interviewing Family—Sunday Morning 8:30-9:30, and 10-11. Between now and then, I’ll be posting some items to the equipment guide section. Until then, check out all the recent goodies on Interviewing in the Interviewing category, or my From Recording to Audio Series (mostly about Audacity and iTunes). Yes, I know Number 4 of that series is not yet up. Seriously, this week and next I need a clone. Number 4 will be appearing in good time.
What questions should I ask? Here’s a strategy for coming up with questions based on what you know about the person. Create a rough structure of the person’s life. List what you know about the person. List what you know about the time period. Look at it and then let the questions suggest themselves.
The structure of your interviewee’s life
The low-tech version uses a piece of paper. High tech version uses a spreadsheet that you can download.
I’ll use my dad as an example. He’s no longer alive (which is one reason I’ll use some specifics from his life)
- Create a document with a few columns across the top: Calendar year, Age (how many years old), and then more columns to note life’s events. A column for where he lived, a column for school and work, a column for major life events, and a column for historical events going on at ...Read More
It’s not the same thing as what Ye Olde Maiden Aunt used to collect and curate. An intriguing article by fellow Association of Personal Historians member Jane Lehman-Shafron, she notes the current trends (look! TV shows! Newspaper articles!), but also points out how family history in digital form is being used by the next generation, the Digital Natives who grow up immersed in computing technology.
The form that family history is taking changes with the times.
Today’s younger generations are more interested in family history than ever before. The whole country is. But they are demanding that those maiden aunts (and all the rest of us who fulfill the function of “family historian”) get with the times. They want their family history accessible and they want it compelling.
Speaking as the
single Aunt whose spent a lot of time in the technology industry—I’m even called AuntiAlias—it’s a computer graphic pun (know what anti-aliasing is?), I’m one of those Aunts who is pushing everyone forward in digital pursuits when it comes to family history.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You ...Read More
What’s wrong with “Why?” In the previous post, I wrote about asking open-ended questions, that is, questions that would elicit a lengthy story or explanation. Something more than a yes or no answer. “Why?” is a question designed to get a lengthy reply. So why don’t I say to use “why?”
The answer is not “Because I said so.” But there’s something about that famous familial exchange (“Why?” “Because I said so!”) that gets at the heart of Why Not Why.
Remember the two parts of attitude I mentioned yesterday?
- Be Curious.
- Be Non-Judgmental.
Asking a question using the word “Why?” might sound judgemental.
Especially if you’re family.
When a family member asks another family member a question that begins with Why?, it might put the second person on the defensive in the same way as “Why didn’t you take out the trash?”
You want to elicit information and stories, not put the person on the spot.
Countdown to Jamboree in Burbank, California – Family Interview edition. Rise and shine early Sunday morning, June 13 at Jamboree and learn some good info about interviewing family. I’ll be leading two sessions – one on the skills of an interviewer, the second on the skills of an audio engineer. This week at Family Oral History Using Digital Tools I’ll be discussing different ways to come up with good questions to ask your family member when you sit down to interview him or her.
“I’m going to interview my Uncle Al. What do I ask?”
I get asked this question—a lot. What do you ask someone that you’re going to visit?
I’ll get more into the specifics of strategies of how to come up with questions to ask, but for now, I’ll give you a few tips on attitude.
Your job as an interviewer is to elicit information and stories from the other person. Period. The rest is just details.
All the pointers I’ll be offering are consistent with your job as story eliciter. (not to be confused with Story Elixer, though perhaps you want your questions to act as a kind of story elixer) The job is to elicit stories. I’ll tell you more about different ways to do that.
Your attitude ...Read More
The last survivors. Last ones alive, who experienced… what, exactly? That’s the subject of a book by Stuart Lutz. Lutz interviewed 39 last survivors of many different experiences. The Last Leaf: Voices of History’s Last-Known Survivors is the oral history of those 39 people, with each chapter combining background information with the first-person narratives of each Last Survivor’s oral history.
So who were some of these people who witnessed amazing people and events?
- The last living soldier of the great war
- The last suffragette
- The last pitcher from whose pitch Babe Ruth hit a home run
- The last man to fly with Amelia Earhart
- The last three Civil War windows (one Union, two Confederate)
- The last survivor of the Lusitania sinking
- The last surviving employee of Thomas Edison
- The last man to live in the White House in the 1920s
And wouldn’t you know it? Lutz got his interest in history from stories he heard from his own family.
Lutz, a Maplewood [NJ] resident in his 30s, has always been fascinated with the nearness of the past. As a boy, he listened rapt as his ...Read More