Recording History

The majority of my job is taking recorded history and preserving it and making it available for all to use. But more and more I feel a responsibility to get more involved in the recording of history via audiovisual means to ensure accessibility, and frankly to make less work for the archivists of the future (trust me, there will still be plenty of things to do). UBalt and Langsdale Library have been doing this together for quite some time in their creation and collection of oral histories. An oral history is “a method of gathering, preserving, and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events” as it is defined by the Oral History Association
Eleven oral history collections are housed in the Langsdale Library Special Collections Department–six of which were organized and recorded by UBalt students and faculty. In addition to recorded interviews, the oral history collections sometimes include typewritten transcriptions, biographical summaries of interviewees, interview time tables, and photographs donated by interviewees. All of these document Baltimore City communities and organizations and many can be accessed online.
You have an amazing capacity for recording history literally in your pocket: your mobile smart phone. Much recent attention has been brought to utilizing your smart phone as a tool for citizen journalism with the documentation of events following the shooting and death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. To take that one step further: not only can a citizen with a smart phone become a journalist, but they can also be a historical documentarian and archivist at the same time. As is described by the group Activist Archivists, “Media is used to inform and inspire people to action, record the history of social movements and positive change, document abuses of power, and enables the eyes of the world to help protect activists on the ground.” This group worked in collaboration with Witness, an international organization that trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights, to create seven tips for making your videos discoverable and usable in the long term.
Check out those tips and contact me if you would like more information on this topic at And one tip from an Audiovisual Archivist: try to remember to flip your phone to the “widescreen”, horizontal position–you will capture more visual information that way and it will look a lot better on the Internet. Take for example this recent cell phone video of new University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke and students Michelle Richardson, Nyshe Green and Jasmine Gibson’s #IceBucketChallenge.


Happy documenting!

<<Siobhan Hagan, Audiovisual Archivist

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