We are big fans of Morgan M. Page’s One From the Vaults trans history podcast, which brings out “all the dirt, gossip, and glamour from trans history.” Her work is a great example of how the podcast form can enliven public history, a project we are trying to emulate here at the Collaboratory.
As part of our Scholars in Residence Digital Collections lab, we’re learning how to make radio documentaries using the oral history tapes we have been digitizing. Stacey Copeland, instructor at Ryerson University, has been workshopping the basics of storytelling and audio editing with us. Students will be working in pairs with audacity, and basic digital audio recorders, to create a podcasts for each of the three lab projects: the “Not a Place on the Map” Desh Pardesh Oral History Project, the Mirha-Soleil Ross archives, and the Foolscap Oral History Project (Details on all three here). Each podcast will give visitors to our digital collections a short, engaging intro to the materials in the collection. Ideally we hope they can become additional resources for classrooms wanting to use these digital collections.
Our hope is that making radio documentaries will also be an exercise in thinking about how to narrativize oral history materials. One thing we struggle with, like many digital history projects, is that most online users are not interested in listening to an entire two-hour oral history interview. What kinds of digital models, storytelling techniques, and curatorial approaches might we use to engage users with these audio materials in ways that are consistent with online media’s timescales? How can we make oral histories useful for digital collections users, so that all our work digitizing audio tapes actually leads to users hearing these stories? Our hope is that developing podcasts becomes one way to do this kind of engagement.