Restored Reel-to-Reel Tape Decks as Art.

image A Gallery of Custom Tape Decks, wherein Jeff Jacobs restores old audio technology as art, via BoingBoing Gadgets. I love the meta-line here. Jacobs restores tape decks, which I think of as tools for restoring (and digitizing) audio. If tape decks are art, then there’s a ton of art at Richard Hess’s audio tape restoration studio! In decades to come, when those machines grow ever scarcer, the BoingBoing post points to another source to find those long-obsolete tape decks of the world: the personal collections of geeks.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 12, 2009 in • AudioAudio: HardwareLongevityMemorabiliaRestoration
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Sens Feinstein, et. al., introduce bill to create Civil Rights Oral History Project

From Sen. Feinstein’s office: “Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced legislation to create a Civil Rights Oral History Project, a joint effort between the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress to collect oral histories of those involved in the Civil Rights Movement and preserve them for future generations.” It will be like the Veterans History Project in that it would be a project of the Library of Congress

Just saw word of this from Senator Feinstein via Twitter. I asked how it will differ from the Voices of Civil Rights project, which I wrote about yesterday. The Voices of Civil Rights project is a joint project, where the Library of Congress is one of the sponsors, along with AARP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR).

While I was poking around on the Voices of Civil Rights site yesterday, I had a question to ask them—is the project still conducting any interviews, or is their total populatino of interviews limited to those collected during their national bus tour in 2004. Good question, right? The email address doesn’t work, though: It bounced!  Doesn’t need an act ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 09, 2009 in • Oral History ProjectsVeterans History Project
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London: Digital Lives Research Conference

image Feb 9-11 in London: 1st Digital Lives Research Conference is from the project of interest to “individuals who wish to manage their own personal digital collections for family history, biographical or other purposes.”

There’s a blog associated with the Project/Conference. Have no idea if there’ll be postings from the conference, as the blog’s author, Jeremy John said, “My new year resolution is to blog more frequently.” (ahem, Jeremy. I can relate!)

Conference topics include:

  • Digital Lifelines: Practicalities, Professionalities and Potentialities
    • Aspects of Digital Curation
    • Digital Economy and Philosophy
    • On the Monetary Value of Personal Digital Objects
    • Digital Preservation
    • Practical Experiences
    • Professional Matters Arising, Options for the Future and Resolutions
  • Personal Information Lifecycles: Creator, Curator, Consumer

    • Personal Information Management and Usability
    • Forensics, Authenticity, ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 08, 2009 in • Digitality
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It’s our past coming back to life

image Wow. 32-page typewritten transcript – from 100 years ago – provides a description of a pictoral history of Sioux nation. The Twin Cites (MN) family finds it in a trunk of Grandma’s old possessions (Great-Grandma typed it up), and gives a copy of it to members of the Lakota tribe.

Libby Holden [pictured with transcript, above] said her grandmother, who inherited the oral history, never spoke about it. It’s possible she never knew she had the document. When she died, her possessions were stored at the family’s printing company.

Last summer, Libby Holden and several other family members began sorting through the items. Holden says one big musty old trunk was especially interesting. [... It] contained the White Horse oral history. She said it’s possible the items were packed away by her great-grandmother and left untouched by her descendants.

Holden’s great grandparents had lots of contacts with Native Americans; their great grandfather was a lawyer ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 03, 2009 in • MemorabiliaOral history in the news
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Preserving Your Digital Memories

Digital Preservation -dot- gov’s What You Can Do page : highlights your biggest digital at-risk items: email, computer files, storage disks, digital files, and the needle-in-a digital haystack problem of finding what you want in a pile of digital material.

Preserving a digital object is not the same as preserving, say, a book or photograph. You can put a book on a shelf or a photo in a box and (if kept dry and safe) look at it 50 years later. The same is not true with a digital object. This is why, in many cases, digital materials are considered more fragile than physical ones.

OMG! You can take a DID YOU KNOW? quiz, too.*

*I took it. Missed one because I was thinking more of my own “don’t break the web” habits than, say, how quickly news stories disappear from news websites.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 11, 2008 in • Digitality
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Archiving Geospace

Kewl! UCSB Librarian Named “Pioneer of Digital Preservation” … by the Library of Congress. The pioneer? Larry Carver. At first glance (all I’ve taken), it looks like a cross between Google Earth and an über reference librarian.

“Geospatial technology in the context of libraries is to create software to search for information by pointing to a place on the Earth’s surface and — say using the Internet — ask what data, books, art, etc. is available for that spot or location. It searches by using longitude/latitude coordinates to look for information about that spot. So, the technology is a complex software that can search over millions of maps, aerial photographs, satellite imagery, or any other information that has location information in its metadata [catalog record].”

Okay, it has nothing to do with oral history. Unless you’ve got a project that calls on lat-long data. (latitude longitude)  But it’s cool ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 10, 2008 in • Digitality
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72 years ago: Thanksgiving from Denver

I’ve dipped into the letters to my grandmother again. Here are excerpts from a letter postmarked November 26, 1936. It was written Thankgiving night, during the Great Depression. My great Grandmother just arrived in Denver on a bus, and wrote her daughter. Background: Sometime before this, my great Grandmother divvied up the bills with her husband, said, “Here’s your half,” took hers and wandered to other places, supporting herself by teaching school. This letter is on Taos stationery, but it was sent from Denver, Colorado. The long paragraph about half-way through is a snapshot of economical eateries, free Thanksgiving dinners and oh, the crowds! So, for a Thanksgiving in an economic downturn, here’s a little Depression-era color for you.

. . . . .

Dover Hotel, 1744 Glenarm
Denver, Colorado
Thanksgiving evening.

Dear Flossie,

And now are you surprised I resigned my job in Taos last Friday, at the close of my month, went to Albuquerque that night on the bus and the next night took the bus up here.

The in-laws returned for the winter and three women were just one too many, and I was the one. They wanted me to stay but it was too hard on my ego. And I decided I could earn anywhere as much as I was getting there. For some time this city has been drawing me. So in Albuquerque I got a manicure, my eyebrows shaped, and subtracted three more years. That makes you a co-ed, but don’t complain as long as I do not put you ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 26, 2008 in • Letters in the AtticPersonal History
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Random Find: How Railroads made the West

Poster from Montana Museum [Seattle Times] Book and Tacoma Exhibit describe how the “transportation revolution configured not just the landscape, but the very mindset of the American West.” The book is The West the Railroads Made, by Carlos A. Schwantes and James P. Ronda (Washington State Historical Society/University of Washington Press). The exhibit is at Washington State Historical Museum in Tacoma (through January 24, 2009)

The article provideds some examples of The Change We Heed—as it reshaped life in that time:

Henry David Thoreau was one of the earliest observers to note the changes in the rhythms of American life triggered by the shift from stagecoach to rail transportation: “Do they not talk and think faster in the depot than they did in the stage-office?”

Rail travel didn’t just speed things up; it codified time and industrial standards in unprecedented ways. Early in the railroad age, each town and city had its own time zone — a system that might work in the age of stagecoach transportation, but became untenable in the rail era.

The United States established four standard time zones. After ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 24, 2008 in • History
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Black Friday is Listening Day

National Day of Listening. Instead of (or in addition to) shopping, listen to your family. This is a StoryCorps effort.

Spend an hour recording a conversation with someone around you at Thanksgiving time. There’s a 2-page recording guide that covers the basics. They also encourage you to listen to some of the recordings for inspiration, and then share your experiences with them once you’ve done so.

BTW, in case you were wondering what Black Friday is... it’s the shopping day post Thanksgiving.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 21, 2008 in • Do it: YourselfStoryCorps
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LIFE magazine photo archive now searchable on Google

LIFE photo archive hosted on the web by Google. Photos go back to the 1860s, and sketches & etchings go back to the 1750s. Wow! Here’s the Google blog post about it. There goes the afternoon. I’ve already found an interesting railroad set. There goes the afternoon! [via Lifehacker]

Not only is this cool, but it’s a good thing to poke through if you’re going to sit down and interview someone. It’s better to get some research in about the time and place where your interviewee lived. What was it like in 1950s? What about such-n-such events? Spending time in collections such as this helps to take you, the questioner, there, and ask better questions of your interviewee.. I’ve been thinking about online repositories of supporting information

P.S. Southern Pacific Rail Road. Dispatcher, perhaps? That was my grandfather’s job and employer

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 18, 2008 in • HistoryInterviewingPhotographs
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Towers of Gold: History of the man indistinguishable from history of the State of California

imageIt’s a personal family historian’s Best of All Possible Worlds scenario – follow a hankering to learn more family history for the sake of the kids, and go to the state historical society, discover not just one but dozens of boxes of archived materials about Great-Great Grandpa, and spend the next 8 years researching and writing a book about how that Great Great Grandpa, Isaias W. Hellman, helped make California. Frances Dinkelspiel’s book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California was released last week.

I first learned of Frances Dinkelspiel and her Great Great Grandfather during Southern California’s record rainy season in 2005. Kevin Roderick, of LA Observed, published her rejected op ed about the rainiest season ever. I was blogging the wet season, so I linked to it in my research of writings about the wettest year on record (1861) in CA. From that time, I intermittently followed Ghost Word, the blog of Berkeley-based Frances Dinkelspiel, which covered writing, journalism, and her work researching and writing about Isaias Hellman.

detail from birds eye view map of Los AngelesThe story of Isaias Hellman in California begins the decade after statehood (1850) and ends just after WWI. In 1859, Hellman emigrated to Los ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 17, 2008 in • BooksHistoryPersonal History
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Rock star son’s quest to learn more about quantum physicist dad

Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives, a recent PBS/Nova episode rocked my world recently. (my S.O. tivos Nova, and kept this episode for me). Mark Everett (the E of the band Eels) goes on a quest to understand more about Hugh Everett (his dad) and dad’s radical theory of quantum physics.

The musician son who didn’t inherit dad’s math gene seeks to learn about the remarkable theory his dad dreamed up.

[from the show’s about page:] “My father never, ever said anything to me about his theories,” Mark says. “I was in the same house with him for at least 18 years, but he was a total stranger to me. He was in his own parallel universe. He was a physical presence, like the furniture, sitting there jotting down crazy notations at the dining room table night after night. I think he was deeply disappointed that he knew he was a genius but the rest of the world didn’t know it.”

Mark Everett jokingly admits that he can barely tabulate a restaurant tip, let alone understand ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 10, 2008 in • Documentary FilmsPersonal History
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Rest In Peace, Studs Terkel

Curiosity did not kill this cat. Studs Terkel died this morning at the age of 96.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 31, 2008 in • Oral history in the news
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At the Oral History Association Conference in Pittsburgh

Hello from Pittsburgh. I’m here for the Oral History Association annual meeting (conference). The theme: Oral History in the Digital Age. Today is the “workshops” day, with in-depth instruction on a number of topics.

Intro to Oral History interviewing (Oral History for newbies), Two part workshop on field recording—digital audio and digital video (I’m attending the digital video workshop). Oral History and the Law (agreements with interviewees, and how do you construct them to make an interview available to an archive or institution in perpetuity for the long-term?), digital preservation, “transforming the transcript” and a hands-on workshop for working with digitized audio and video using a particular software setup.

I’ll give a report about the digital video workshop. I’ve always wanted to cover digital video as well as audio. My strengths are in audio, and this is a good way to get up to ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 15, 2008 in • Do it: Learn HowOral Historians
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“Burn that letter I sent”—83 years later, I’m glad she disobeyed

I’ve spent today delving into the letters in the attic. After reading a few from 1917 (and doing my normal note-taking and free-writing about them), I sorted through other stacks of letters. Separated a bunch (1921-1925) into piles by year. Found some written in spring of 1925– a few months before my grandparents got married. Jackpot! Motherlode! Mother’s Mother’s Mother’s weary load, it was. Mama’s (Fannie’s) reaction to news of her daughter’s engagement. Which take different forms over five or so letters as the unwelcome news settles in. But the Jackpot letter was the one in which my great-grandmother describes to her daughter her own marriage to Ben.

She said, I thought I might write this story in a letter for you to read after I am dead. But then she thinks the better of it, in light of young women who make mistakes and say, If I only knew! If only my mother told me. So she wrote that letter. And today I read it.

Dear web reader, what a tease I am! I’m not going to dish all the dirt. But there’s dirt. It’s juicy. It’s filled with a recounting of disappointments, mostly of the checkered path of my great-grandfather’s so-called career. He went from job to job, and not in a good way. There’s some moral failing, too. Over two generations. And near moral failures. It’s frank. As Fannie said, I want to wipe the slate clean.

There’s ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 20, 2008 in • Letters in the AtticPersonal History
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