Category Archives: Reviews

A Review of Mobile Public History: History Pin

I was given the task of finding a digital  public history project that required the user to be in the landscape she is learning about.  This was challenging for me. From the examples provided to us, I assumed that major metropolitan areas would have an abundance of such resources. I, however, live in the suburbs of central Connecticut. In fact, I searched for such a project any where in Connecticut, and came up short. (Well, the Wentworth Athenaeum has a pretty cool mobile experience, but that’s an art museum). My boyfriend lives in North Eastern PA, which is equally devoid of mobile history experiences. As a result, I turned to , a community of public historians and public history organizations that use google-maps style pins to plot historic resources across the landscape.

I choose the University of Scranton Library’s tour of the campus. Having never been to the campus, I had zero base knowledge to work from. It was clear to me from the start that the designers had intended their tour for people already familiar with the campus. The information about all the buildings assumed I already knew what they were. For example, “Photograph of St. Thomas Hall taken from the corner of Linden Street and Monroe Street. The Catlin House (Lackawanna Historical Society) can be seen in the right corner of the image. The photograph was taken prior to the construction of the University Commons.” I had no idea where St. Thomas Hall is or what its function is. This description tells me next to nothing. The stops were not entered in the order a person walking in the commons would encounter them. They seemed to be entered in the order the curator encountered them in the archives. is in Beta, so hopefully the interface improves. Despite it’s mission to add historic information to the landscape, the website is not particularly mobile-friendly.  The layout did not resize to a smaller screen. And finding St. Thomas Hall was very difficult. There was no address, and the google map image didn’t have street names! I didn’t even know where the commons were. So I wandered around trying to follow Google Maps.

Once I found the building I was supposed to be looking at, I really didn’t feel like I understood the historic building any better. The current University of Scranton commons is a pedestrian walkway through campus. The archival photos showed how the campus was once integrated into the city. Because I didn’t come in with much familiarity with the University, all I could get out of the tour was that the streets of Scranton had been closed and reopened as pedestrian paths.

Although History Pin uses geolocation data to integrate the web experience with the landscape, just placing a pin on a street map doesn’t help the user. It was kind of neat to stand in front of the building with the archival photo in my hand, but I didn’t feel the text helped me understand the historic landscape. Perhaps students who have a better understanding of the relationship between the city and university could pick up on a historical argument, but to me it just seemed like interesting facts. There is room for improvement, to be sure.

Digital Collections in Public History

Base digital collections seem to inherently allow for richer, more rigorous public history engagement. Any history endeavor needs a foundation of solid primary sources to build analysis upon.  In a public history project, however, simply providing digital resources does not ensure that the audience will be able to engage with history any more effectively. Project designers need to consider the needs and wants of their audience when they build their digital collection.

Mitchell Whitelaw, in his essay “Generous Interfaces for Digital Cultural Collections,”1 discusses how one of the greatest challenges project designers face is communicating to the audience what resources are available. His solution presents as much of the collection as possible from the home page. I like that this method provides users with an idea of the breadth and scope of the collection. For my project, however, I don’t think such an approach would be appropriate. My base collection, images of the churches and material culture of Baptism, are not particularly meaningful as stand-alone images. I want my audience to engage in the full context of baptism, for which a single image or object is insufficient.

I do plan to provide a browse/search images page in my website, but I don’t think that will be the primary way my audience will want to engage with my collection- nor the way I want them to. To build up context for the collection of images, I want users to feel that they have entered a room, rather than a gallery. In a room the viewer can see how objects are related to one another. In a gallery (although carefully selected and curated with a particular argument), viewers often encounter the images as stand alone objects removed from the world. At this point in development, I intend to provide my users with pathways of exploration, rather than shove a box of photographs in their hands. The two paths I am currently working out is a timeline approach and a denominational approach. The time line will take the user through the collection by church construction date. The denominational approach will allow the user to view the collection by faith tradition.

My project is built off material culture and the object is my central focus. My digital collection is the crux of my work.  Coming from archaeology, context is the keystone to any interpretive work. I want my audience to engage with the history of Baptism through putting material culture in context. Specifically, I want my audience to understand how those objects functioned together at particular times and particular places, and by particular people. This kind of engagement is only possible with a rich digital image collection and with a structured discovery design- as opposed to expecting the audience to draw meaning from search results.

1. Whitelaw, Mitchell. “Generous Interfaces for Digital Cultural Collections.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 9.1 (2015).

Public History at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village Online ( and In-Person

            Concerned Georgian citizens, witnessing the decline in traditional Georgian farming communities throughout the mid twentieth century, founded the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village (originally the “Agrirama”) in 1976 to preserve local folkways and educate the public about the history of farming in Georgia. In 2010 the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College assumed control administration from the State Government, at which time the name was changed and a greater emphasis was placed upon education.1 The present campus of the Historic Village consists of 26 historic structures, relocated and restored, and a virtual tour is available on the College website. Both the physical and virtual sites promote an idyllic farming past, in which self-sufficient, yet community oriented, families worked their land isolated from external influences of city culture. School children can experience this life first hand all year, while these experiences are limited to peak season for ticketed visitors. The Historic Village primarily educates the public by encouraging them to perform the same tasks as Reconstruction Era farmers.  

            While the website invites viewers to visit the village (and pay admission), the village invites visitors to become immersed in Georgia’s homespun agricultural past. The website highlights family-centered activities and elements of the past to entice the primary audience, young families, to visit. Upon arrival, patrons must ride a steam engine to access the historic village from the “Country Store” where they purchase tickets. The short train ride literally transports riders from the modern world to the Historic Village. The first stop at the traditional section (1870’s) does not have a formal train station and the visitor must walk across pasture land to the first log cabin. There are two other cabins in this section, which can clearly be seen from one to another with small fields between them. Near the center is the school and the church. There is a feeling that these people were neighbors, and the docents in period dress tell visitors about family meals and trips to church every Sunday.

            These docents have absolute control of the information and interpretation communicated to the audience. Although advertised as a self-guided tour, the village contains no written explanations in the form of pamphlets, plaques or labels. The goal of the village is to create the illusion that visitors have been transported to the past and are walking in on an ordinary day. Therefore, artifacts sit mute throughout the rooms. If a docent is absent, patrons can only guess the meaning of what they see. Although the buildings and artifacts supposedly communicate the story of family-centered farm life, the docents are literally and figuratively the only part of the village that have voices. This is almost certainly intentional. The time period, 1870-1910 was probably chosen to avoid the issue of slavery and the Civil War. Nothing in the museum references Black or Native American experiences, although these peoples composed 70% of the Pineland’s population2. Although these issue are especially sensitive in the South, the silence is more jarring than an honest encounter, especially when the only African-American employee is assigned the role of the matron of the tobacco farm. Written text, although disrupting the illusion of time travel, offers a solution to uncomfortable discussions about race.

            The progressive section (1890’s) contains a tobacco farmer’s home, log cabin, grist mill, and formal train station. Visitors see successful farmers with livestock and big homes. The artifacts in the progressive homes are often the same as those of the tradition section- quilting racks, pianos (!), and beds in nearly every room. As visitors move from the homes to the mill, they can imagine transporting the farm produce to the mill. At the mill, visitors can volunteer to separate the hull from the meal as the mill actively grinds corn. The industrial complex progresses seamlessly from the mill. The closeness of the saw mill, blacksmith, and commissary implies that in the past these industries really were on top of each other. The docents describe a society in which these industries were ancillary to the villager’s lives, interpreting the past from the farmers’, rather than laborers’ point of view. Likewise, Main Street, where the print shop, feed and seed, mercantile, and drug store are located is presented not as a hub, but as a fun weekend excursion for otherwise industrious farmers.          

            The 1900’s section of the village seems jarringly out of place. Whereas the other sections of the village merged almost seamlessly into each other, this last piece is noticeably different. The doctor’s home and Masonic lodge are constructed of painted wood siding, as opposed to logs or undressed boards. The interiors contain luxuries, which the other homes and businesses lack. The Tift house, home of the lumber baron Henry Tifton, rests far apart from the entire village. His home contains every luxury and convince of the 1900’s. There is hardly a quilt or needlework in sight. The docent draws connections between Tift and the saw mill, as well as the turpentine still, in the village proper. The home seems out of place with the rest of the campus.

            Most visitors view the website before arrive at the village, and therefore website consists primarily of information about the hours of operation and services the museum provides. There is a virtual tour offered under the tab labeled “attractions,” making the museum feel more like an entertaining ride than a learning experience. Visitors to the website are told that by looking through the online tour they will “See what to expect during your visit to the Museum…or see what you are missing by not coming to visit!” The site provides factual information about selected historic buildings and industries, namely those structures, such as the school and church, which function as community centers.

Unlike the physical space, the website is not well designed. While the physical space encourages a single flow of traffic, the website is fragmented. When a visitor follows a link to one of the buildings, she must navigate back to the “attractions” page either through the tab or her browser back button. An improvement would be to provide users the ability to advance from one structure to the next with arrows (like an online gallery). Although a video tour is available, visitors are instructed only to “Click Here” without explanation of what they should expect to find by clicking the link. The video is housed completely outside of the museum pages, but in the College’s video archives, which users may find confusing, as the relationship between the museum and college is not explained well.

­In stark contrast with the physical site, where interactivity is the primary means by which visitors learn, there is zero interactivity online. The website might offer something, as this is the major selling point of the historic village. Recipes or “Did you know?” explorations of the structures might serve as virtual interactive activities. While patrons can question and respond to the actors at the village, the website does not even offer a “Contact Us” page. In fact, there is no clear indication who “us” would be. The “Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village” remains in the header of every page, yet the Agricultural College’s website hosts the pages.  

Although a fantastic day trip for families, historians would likely be disappointed by both the website and village. The administration seems to be conscious of this, as website content is written in a style easily accessible to typical English speakers and the text offers no scholarly notes, evidence, or bibliography. Neither the website nor village encourage visitors to think historically, but rather receive the idealized representation of the past. While the website and village both claim to be primarily concerned with education, both seem to be more concerned with teaching the mechanics of how people in the past lived, rather than providing rich interpretations or asking any sort of “why” questions. These elements speak to the original intent of the museum and village- to preserve warm memories. Visitors are encouraged to “adventure back in time. Explore a place where the community was tight-knit, where the doors were never locked, where although life close to the earth was not easy, it was good.”3

1. “Welcome to the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village!” Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. 2012.
2. Print Shop Historian. Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village. 4 February, 2017.
3. “Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village.” YouTube video, 14:24. Posted by The ABACStallion. 18 July, 2014.

Voyant, CartoDB and Palladio: A Comparison

Using the same data for all three project was an enlightening experience. Intellectually I had accepted that different methodologies would yield varying results and elicit different questions. But actually doing to work has given me a deeper understanding of the magnitude of this concept.

As an archaeologist, I’m always very aware of place. I often ask “where” questions and think of  human activity taking place on the crust of the Earth at specific points. Therefore, CartoDB was fairly intuitive to me. Before beginning to play with the software I already had some idea of what producing a map could tell me. What did surprise me was the depth of information I was able to get about place with the other two tools.

Although I often work with texts to both point me in the direction of sites and to add nuances to the archaeological record, I’ve always struggled conceptualizing text within space. Voyant in conjunction with Carto helped me visualize this relationship. While Voyant gave me visualizations about words that occurred within the seventeen states, Carto helped me make spatial connections and situate these data in a place rather than just a word “Alabama.”

Likewise, Palladio helped me make further connections about the observations I had made in Voyant and Carto. Voyant acted more as a comparative tool. I could see how word frequencies changed across the corpus. Palladio was a comparative tool as well, but graphs visualized magnitude and categories, whereas Voyant was useful in discovering that these categories existed, but was less effective in presenting observations in relation to other data.

The observation I made after looking at the data in all three tools was that there was a significant movement of people after emancipation. Voyant provided the words used to describe this movement like place names and occupations following freedom. CartoDB conveyed how far afield people traveled after emancipation. Finally, Palladio showed me the movement of individuals. That dynamic action across time and space is not something that one application was able to fully convey.

That being said, the Voyant, CartoDB and Palladio each have their specific strengths. Palladio might have a mapping feature, but if your project has a heavy map component, use Carto. Voyant can be used to topic model, but use Palladio to visualize how the topics related to people. Carto can insinuate relationships, but rely upon Palladio to actually connect the dots.

After looking at the three tools side by side I can see real potential for projects that integrate more than one. That being said, I find that academics can get lost in the sea of knowledge. Some times we spend so much time trying to know everything we can about a topic we loose sight of our project. A successful project needs to be able recognize when a tool will be useful and when it will detract from the goal. These three programs are very powerful discovery and publication tools. I find it very challenging to balance discovery with putting knowledge out there. At some point I have to at least pause discovery, draw conclusions, and share what I’ve learned. And sometimes I find it incredibly fruitful to return to the discovery process. Palladio and CartoDB allow for that fluidity, whereas Voyant is much harder to return to.

Using Palladio: A Reflection and User Guide

Palladio is a free web-based network tool. It allows users to upload their own data to create both maps and network graphs.  Users don’t need an account and can download project to their computers or save the url to return to their projects.

When embarking upon a networking project, I think it’s important to be conscientious about what kinds of relationships networking can best represent. The idea is to see relationships between data that otherwise are hard to conceptualize. My trials with Palladio have some good examples where networks effectively convey information, and good negative examples as well. As I describe how to use the tools, I’ll included some commentary about what I learned in the process.

Getting Started

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After entering into your address bar all you have to do is press “start.”
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From there you’ll have to load some data. As far as I can tell you can’t create data in Palladio. My data were stored in .csv documents and prepared for me by my instructor. Hopefully you’ve organized your data before you’ve come to this point. I loaded the primary data set I would be drawing from- in other words the spread sheet all other sheets would relate to. From there press “Load.”

Your Data

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Your primary dataset will appear in the “data” tab. Here you’ll connect other data tables to make relationships. In this step you’ll already start making decisions about what kinds of relationships you want to show by what data you choose to add extensions to. In my project we were concerned with showing relationships between people and places, so this is the data we linked.
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By clicking on a data field (in my case “where interviewed”) the editing window opens. Here I selected “Add a new table” to start creating relationships. I uploaded my “locations” spread sheet. Then I selected the “subject interviewed” data field from my primary dataset and added the locations of their enslavement. Finally, in the Enslavement table that I just uploaded I clicked on the drop down “Extension” menu and selected “Locations” to link the two datasets. At the end I had this set of data:
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With all my data uploaded and connected, I was ready to start exploring Palladio’s visualizations.

Mapping with Palladio

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It is possible to map with Palladio, but that doesn’t mean you should. Creating the map is fairly easy. Select “Add new layer” then the above editing window appears. Just select what kinds of points you want and the two datasets you’d like displayed (source for me was interview location, target where_ensalved). You might have to “ctrl -” to zoom out enough to see the “add layer” button.
 photo Palladio_Map_zpsxhnldfar.jpg
For some projects the mapping feature is probably sufficient, but for mine, it was far from. Although this map does show the movement of individuals from their places of enslavement to the location of their interview, the directionality is not clear. Palladio does allow for layers, but the information available for display is not nearly as rich or customizable as CartoDB and other GIS specific applications. This map does convey that there was a significant movement of people after slavery ended, but other questions can be better explored and asked in GIS applications.

Networking Tools

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The networking tool is pretty intuitive. All you have to do is select that data you want to relate (a source and a target). The “facet” tab allows users to focus in on certain aspects of their data (for example in the above visualization I could limit the interviewees to those over the age of 80). In the above example I selected the interviewer as the source data and the interviewee as the target. The resulting visualization shows which interviewers interviewed which ex-slaves. I would say this is a good visualization because the viewer can see the intended information with ease. So, instead of looking at a spreadsheet organized by interviewer, I see all the their interviewees in one page. This visualization doesn’t elicit many novel questions, but it does provide solid information.
WPA M/F photo WPA M_F_zpsykydcfv4.jpg
Within the source data, you can select other facets to relate. In the above example I visualized which interviewers met with male and/or female informants. This helps me ask questions about gender bias in the interviews, or how gender norms in 1936 influenced the interviews.
WPA Type/Topics photo WPA Type_Topics_zpstz0kwiiz.jpg
Networking the relationships regarding topics had mixed results. The graph above, showing the relationship between the type of work the ex-slave was engaged in during their enslavement and what topics they discussed is a rather successful graph. I would have expected there to be more variation in the topics, but upon seeing this graph I was reminded that the interviewers used a script, asking about particular topics and really engaging in natural conversations. The few outliers probably represent occasional spontaneity arising from the script.
WPA Topics photo WPA Topics_zpsdlumm6pm.jpg
The above graph is a fairly clear example of an instance where networking doesn’t work well. The relationship between which interviewees and which topics they discussed. The result is too highly clustered and the size of the nodes too large to make anything out. This unfortunate grouping is due to the afore mentioned scripted. Almost every person discussed the same things sine they answered the questions they were being asked. This consistency also reflects what Mark Twain refers to as “corn-pone,” when enslaved or previously enslaved people who tell white people what they wanted to hear. It could be said that there was already a script, even before the WPA produced one.

A Brief Reflection

Networking visualization can be a very powerful tool when the investigator is conscientious of what information the graphs can provide. Palladio  only computes bimodal networks, which is usually the best thing. Looking at these networks allowed me to ask questions about why these relationships looked the way they did. So, why did female interviewers tend to meet with female informants? Why were ex-house slaves the only people to discuss “mammy?”

I was also able to draw some preliminary conclusions. The WPA script was, arguably, effective. Conversations stayed relatively on script and recorded consistent types of information. These observations would lead me to look at the scripts themselves to see to see if I’m correct. Which leads to another take-away: no tool replaces close reading.

Using CartoDB: A Reflection and Guide

CartoDB is a free online application that allows users to make GIS maps. The interface is user friendly and fairly straight forward for even the novice to navigate. I wouldn’t consider this a replacement for more powerful programs like ArcGIS, but this is certainly a better tool for projects looking to make clean, professional spatial visualizations. There are certainly tools that make deeper analysis possible, but not to the extent something like Arc would.

I tinkered with CartoDB using data derived from the WPA Slave Narratives, which I explained more fully in my last post about Voyant. Many interviews had GPS coordinates: where the interview occurred and where the interviewee had been enslaved. Those that did not have exact points were set in the middle of their city/region.  This exercise was intended to visualize the spatial elements of these interviews. As I discuss how to use some of the available features,  I’ll also reflect on the utility of the tools in this endeavor.

Getting Started

Home Page photo Carto_Home_zpsqajxdi1q.jpg
The first thing you need to do is create an account: After that you need some data, which needs to be organized into a spread sheet (I used data that was prepared in Excel, but other options are available). Hopefully, you’ve prepared the data before even getting as far as signing up or logging in (there is functionality to draw your own polygons, lines, and points, but I did not explore those features).  To add new data select “datasets” from next to your username (where is says “map” in the above screen shot).
Add New photo Carto_Data_New_zpsh60sqoq2.jpg
Then, all you do is upload, or create, your data from the options shown above. I really like that users can create their data from the software they’re comfortable with, which makes sharing data easier. I did not create the data I used for my project, my professor had certain goals in mind about what he wanted our maps to show. The way tables are organized influences the kinds of information map visualizations will display, so this functionality, though seemingly simple, is actually pretty powerful.

Your Data

Data Table photo Carto_DataView_zpsct483rsn.jpg
Now that you’ve got your data uploaded, you’re ready to start mapping. But, first, you might want to go through and make sure Carto understands your data. The above screenshot is what I saw upon uploading my data. I had to make sure all the numbers were recognized as such, but especially that the date was an actual date. I find this to be a helpful exercise in ensuring you understand your data, especially if you didn’t create it. Before I even saw the map, I began to wonder about how these categories related to each other on the map. Chances are, that if you’ve made your own data, you already have an idea.

Making Your Map(s)

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Now, all you have to do is click the “Map View” tab.  Carto automatically plots your points and zooms to the extent of those points. Like other GIS software you can work in layers if you so choose.
Infowindow photo Carto_Infowindow_zpsy8jd7nab.jpg
When you click on the side bar where you see the “+” and “1”, the tools open. I started by clicking the speech bubble (hover and see it called “infowindow“) to select what columns of my data I wanted to be displayed when I clicked on points that would help me identify one point from another, like the name of the interviewee. That was helpful for me, not just because my instructor told us to do that first, but because I was able to start visualizing what I might want my map to look like and the kind of information I wanted to show.

The wizard tab is the tool you’ll spend the most time with. This is where you select what kind of map you want. The default is “simple” which just plots your points. Here you’ve really got to think about what kind of information you want to convey. I was working with two sets of data: where the interviews occurred and where the interviewees were enslaved. Although I could have mapped both of these using two layers, it wouldn’t be very helpful as just points on a map, so I looked (and was instructed) to view the data in two separate maps.
Category photo Carto_Category_zpsicbzernq.jpg
As I played with the wizard I found that some elicited interesting questions while some just muddied the data. The map of where interviews occurred tells me more about the interviewers than interviewees. The “category” wizard gave a unique color to each interviewer and patterns emerged regarded how much or little they traveled. The “torque” map can be equated with the timeline feature in ArcGIS. I had dates for when the interviews occurred and was able to play an animation of when the interviews occurred. This allows for temporal questions to be asked: When was the zenith of the project? How were the interviews carried out- in a logical progression across the state or seemingly randomly? The cluster map was also useful for analyzing the data for this map. Where were the most interviews? Kernal density maps were not particularly helpful in illuminating this data, however. The interviews were already pretty tightly clustered in Alabama.

The other set of data, where the interviewees had been enslaved, did lend toward kernel density maps since they were spread out over a larger area.The simple map was still helpful getting an idea of where these people had been enslaved, but given the limitation that the exact X,Y coordinates were more often than not uncertain, the information presented as particular points might be misleading. Something like a heat or density map gives a more honest visualization of the available data.
2 Layer photo Carto_Heat_zpsmgwmhlky.jpg
In the end, I did combine the two maps to see how the locations of the interviews related on the face of the globe to the places of enslavement. I used a heat map for the places of enslavement and simple points for the interview. The resulting two layer map revealed that most of interviewees were enslaved in the metropolitan areas they were interviewed in. The major pitfall is that the map is rather hard to read, since Carto considers heat maps to be animations and therefore must be the top layer. I would have preferred for the points to be the top layer so they could be more visible. I played with the transparency of the heat map until I felt I had struck a balance between the visibility of the simple map and the color saturation of the heat map. You can add text to your map, but I found great difficulty producing a legend, the key component of conveying information.

A Brief Reflection

Mapping allowed me to ask “where” questions, which comes as no surprise. This exercise also elicited questions that require returning to the text for answers. Why did the people who were enslaved elsewhere move to Alabama? Are those ex-slaves who were enslaved in Alabama the same who were interviewed? Why did certain interviewers conduct their work where they did? Plotting points on a map is helpful because it reminds the researcher that these interviews were conducted in a place and place influences thought. Just how place and thought interact is the job of the researcher to investigate, but these questions are best broached with a map visualization.

Review: Oral History Online


Launched in April 2004, Oral History Online (ORHI) has undertaken the daunting task of indexing English language oral histories from collections and repositories all over the world. Among many excited oral historians, Michael Frisch and his colleagues wrote that ORHI, “… offers a rich mix in both cataloging and indexing tools, and has real power in this regard.”1 Updated quarterly, the initial 7,000 interviews from 850 collections has grown to 18,421 interviews from over 2,700 collections, many with full text transcriptions and indexes greater than 4,200 audio and video files.

Search: Users are able to search using several tools. Subscribers may browse the Table of Contents, divided into “Repositories,” “Collections,” “Interviews,” “Date,” “Places,” “Historical Events,” and “All Subjects,”  which allows for serendipitous discoveries.  Under the “Find Collections” tab, users can search through metadata to find collections relevant to their interests. The “Find Interviews” tab provides the same functionality for interviews, with the option to keyword search full-text where available. The results of these searches are not always fully accessible through the database. Some interviews link to external sources and some are housed within repositories or collections which themselves require subscriptions or for the researcher to physically visit the archive.

Digitization of Material: Oral History Online does not digitize any material. Rather, the database indexes records of previously digitized interviews housed by other institutions. Where possible, ORHI provides full-text transcriptions and links to audio and visual material; none of these resources were produced by ORHI, thus copyright of the material belongs to the home institutions.


Date Range: 1930-2008

Publisher: Alexander Street Press

Publisher About Page:

Object Type: Oral Histories, Transcriptions, Audio, Video

Location of Original Material: Various repositories and collections, public and private, throughout the world.

Exportable Image: Not applicable

Facsimile Image: Not applicable

Full Text Searchable: Yes

Titles List Links:





Original Catalog: Various. The original catalogs are house in the collections and repositories Oral History Online has drawn from which can be found under the “Repositories” and “Collections” tabs under the “Table of Contents”.

Digitized from Microfilm: No. Many interviews were digitized from interview tapes and records. Some were born digital.

Original Sources: The collections and repositories ORHI indexes. These range from repositories at major institutes such as universities and museums to collections of small communities.


Frisch, Michael, Jennifer Abraham, Jeff Suchanek, and Pamela Dean. “Oral History Online.” The Oral History Review 32, no. 2 (2005): 89-100. JSTOR:

Speer, L.K. “Oral History Online.” Choice Reviews vol. 43 no. 12 (2006). Choice Reviews:

Henson, Pamela M. “Oral History Online.” The Journal of American History 92, no. 1 (2005): 32. JSTOR:

LaGuardia, Cheryl. “ORAL HISTORY ONLINE.” Library Journal 129, no. 10 (June 2004): 39-40. Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost:


Alexander Street offers institutional and personal access through subscription. Pricing in negotiated on a case-by-case basis and is not advertised.2 A free 30-day trail is available.

Info from Publisher:

ORHI’s “Help” page offers a “Guided Tour” and in depth information about the available search tools.  The “About” page includes copyright information and technical support contacts.

Other Info:

Copyright: Users should be aware that much of ORHI’s content is not public domain and that copy right may be owned by the indexed institutions- and in many cases those institutions do not own the copyright. Under the “Details” of individual interviews there is occasionally a “Restrictions” field that describes the copy right status of the item.

Accessing Interviews: ORHI is a powerful discovery tool, however the database often does not offer direct access to indexed interviews. Where possible, audio files, full-text transcriptions and video are accessible, but much of the content is exclusively housed in the original repositories and catalogs.


The “Details” tab of interviews supplies the metadata necessary for major citation styles such as MLA, APA and Chicago.  In  addition to citing the interview itself, be sure to cite Oral History Online as well.

 1 “Oral History Online,” Frisch, Michael, Jennifer Abraham, Jeff Suchanek, and Pamela Dean. The Oral History Review 32, no. 2 (2005): 90.JSTOR:
2 According to L.K. Speer’s 2006 Choice Reviews article, subscriptions run between $350 and $3,990. See citation under “Reviews.”
NOTE: The format for this review used Beyond Citation: as a template.