Internet Access to Oral Recordings: Finding the Issues

October 25, 2000
Karen Brewster, Research Associate
Oral History Program, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775



Project Overview

Research Results

Application of Research Results

Use of the Programs
Site Use Agreement

Appendix A: Oral History Sites Visited



Project Overview

Five years ago, Web access to oral history was unthinkable. Today, technology has advanced and the Web has increasingly become a mainstream method for information sharing and retrieval. The Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) has been a leader in the development of digital delivery of oral histories and historic material, but, somewhat ironically, we have not yet delivered our programs on the Web. For over ten years, we have been developing interactive, CD-ROM based programs, called Project Jukebox, which integrate full audio from oral history recordings with photographs, biographical and interview setting context information, maps, transcripts, and keyword access to audio sections. Unlike most other programs, we provide access to the entire recording.

As folks have become accustomed to using the Internet and as we kept hearing about more and more references to Websites with oral history material on them, we became concerned that we were falling behind. Being on the Web would be the best way for people to discover our material. It would increase our exposure, our use and access. As a public archive, we consider access to our collections as important as preservation, and are always looking for ways to improve it. But, dealing with the permissions and sensitivity issues kept tripping us up. How did all these other places on the Web deal with this, we wondered. Or did they? We decided that perhaps we could learn from how others have handled Internet access to their oral history collections and apply this to our own situation.

Bill Schneider, Curator of Oral History at UAF, and I received funding from the Alaska Humanities Forum in November 1999 to investigate the issues of oral history on the Internet. The purpose was to review existing sites that have mounted oral history on the Web to see how they have handled the ethical and legal issues surrounding copyright and use permission, contact our program sponsors in rural Alaska about their concerns about Web access, post a report on the Web for broad review, and make some recommendations for how to proceed on this delicate matter with our programs.