• 7 June 2022

Oral History: stories about art made accessible

Museums have unique recordings of spoken stories about artworks in their archives, but this ‘oral history’ is often difficult to access. In the Oral History - Stories at the Museum around Artworks (OH-SMArt) project, researchers from various Dutch institutions will greatly improve this.

Museums have to contend with a serious shortage of digital tools. Additionally, the procedures applied to make recordings of spoken stories about art available are very time-consuming. This is partly due to a lack of applicability and compatibility of technical tools, and to the sometimes highly sensitive information involved. As a result, a considerable backlog has arisen in the processing of this archive material, which is, in fact, a familiar problem within Oral History research.

The OH-SMArt project aims to significantly improve the digital research chain around Oral History. For example, recordings will be directly connected to an automatic time-coded speech transcription service, which will facilitate the unlocking and archiving of spoken stories about art, as well as automatic searching and linking. In addition to improving the workflow, new tools will be developed that are aimed at promoting reflection: user interpretations will be saved with the source material, as a result of which the viewpoint of the researcher will be put into perspective. OH-SMArt will provide access behind the scenes at museums in a smart and accessible manner and contribute to the improvement of research within Oral History in general.

OH-SMArt also creates a better connection between OH research and the CLARIAH infrastructure. On the one hand by creating a link (workflow) between three important infrastructure parties: processing and storage at SURF, ingest at DANS, access via CLARIAH Media Suite. On the other hand by installing the CLARIAH speech recognition service at DANS for the purpose of automatic metadata generation of OH collections.