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Using OHMS - Oral History Metadata Synchronizer: Indexing - what to consider when reading a transcript


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.

How to Index: The Mechanics of Indexing in OHMS

This section has been taken from the OHMS: Getting Started Guide. For more details, please consult that guide.  Activating an interview’s indexing module for the first time will bring up a view such as this one:


In order to begin indexing, you must press the “Play” button on the player. The player must be playing in order for you to create an index point, which is created by pressing the “Tag Now” button at the appropriate moment. When you press “Tag Now” you are presented with a series of empty descriptive fields for you to fill out.


The indexer can control the player within the tagging module. The nature of indexing warrants that the indexer will, inevitably, tag a segment late. In other words, you don’t know something is important until after you have already heard it. For this reason, the player backtracks a few seconds each time the tagging module is activated


When creating an OHMS index, the time stamp is critical. You are creating metadata that corresponds to a particular time code. As a result, you will need to make sure that placement of the time stamp (the precise location in the interview where you want the segment to begin) is exactly where you want it to be. This can be done by controlling the player in the tagging module.

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