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D. Hiden Ramsey Library, University of North Carolina at Asheville

Oral History For Social Change - Dr. Amanda Wray: Indexing - what to consider when reading a transcript

Using the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer

What to consider when indexing

In an archival context, indexing an oral history interview is about effectively documenting and describing interview transitions. Our goal is to provide the future user of the interview with a descriptive search and browse framework. Continuing the book analogy, the indexer creates chapter marks that correlate with these natural transitions, as well as titles and a description for each chapter. Understanding the interview’s structure is crucial for effectively documenting these transitions.

  • In an oral history interview, questions often indicate the locations of subject transitions.
  • By choosing to index (or not to index) a moment in an oral history interview, the indexer is controlling significance. This is a very powerful position to be in since the index you create will frame all future navigation of that interview. It is useful to ask yourself the following questions when deciding whether to index a moment (or not):
  • Does it represent a major topic within this segment of the interview?
  • Will inclusion of this topic be useful to future researchers?
  • Does this segment contain unique, compelling, or interesting content that, even if discussed briefly, stands out in the interview?
  • Does the content correlate to major historical events such as the Great Depression or World War II?
  • Will the creation of an index point for this segment represent this interview effectively to a user, researcher or even a search engine?
  • Have I created index points that will help a user navigate this interview?
  • Have I represented the content effectively?

An OHMS index is not a substitution for a transcript. The OHMS index creates a structured and descriptive navigational framework for effectively and efficiently engaging with an oral history interview in an online archival context. The transcript provides text-based, keyword searchability of an interview’s verbatim content.

Taken from "Indexing Interviews in OHMS: An Overview," by Doug Boyd, et. al.