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Houston Public Library: Houston Oral History Project

Houston Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Marie Wise, Digital Projects Manager, marie.wise@cityofhouston.net

Problem Statement

Houston has a dynamic and fascinating history. Mayor Bill White commissioned 100 interviews of well-known political, business and civic leaders as well as witnesses to the events that shaped the city of Houston. These oral histories along with ones already in the special collections of Houston Public Library were in need of digital preservation and a means for online access. Audio files in the collection ranged from deteriorating reel-to-reel files to full digital audio and video files, all of significant cultural value to the community.

Innovation

The Houston Oral History Project at the Houston Public Library has provided a one-stop online resource for the community to access oral histories with an innovative user presentation for searching and using audio content.

Progress

The Houston Oral History Project is a resource that brings together oral histories from three distinct sources with different collection attributes:
  • The Mayor Bill White Collection – One hundred video histories of Houstonians initiated by Mayor Bill White
  • The Neighborhood Voices Project – Audio and video histories contributed by community members across Houston capturing a wide range of perspectives
  • The Houston Metropolitan Research Center Oral History Collection – a vast collection of oral histories from the 1970’s and 1980’s captured on reel-to-reel and cassette tapes. Digital preservation for this collection was funded by a TexTreasures grant from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The innovative online presentation incorporates features to make the content easy and enjoyable for users to access:
  • Full-text transcripts are provided alongside the audio files
  • All metadata, including transcripts, are fully searchable allowing for precise recall and topic searching
  • Links within transcripts allow users to jump to a particular point in the audio files