Campus News

Nunn Center Remote Work Initiative Increases Accessibility of Oral History Collections

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 16, 2020) In late March, University of Kentucky Libraries made the transition to an online service delivery model, temporarily closing the doors of their nine brick and mortar campus locations and directing students, staff and faculty to the library system’s online services and collections.

Though the shift was aided by the libraries’ expansive electronic catalog, with additional materials being made available daily, the transition to online service delivery still meant a disruption for many employees’ daily tasks. UK Libraries’ Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, however, had the perfect initiative at the ready to bridge the gap between the library system and remote work.

“The Nunn Center’s Remote Transcript Authentication Initiative is taking automatically generated text and ‘authenticating’ this text to audio and video interviews,” said Doug Boyd, director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. “With our move to working remotely, we thought it would be a chance to provide students, staff and faculty the opportunity to help us authenticate some of these transcripts.”

Based on Boyd’s research on a recent Fulbright grant, the Nunn Center has made great strides in speech-to-text transcription for their oral histories. The center’s groundbreaking Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS) enhances access to online interviews that are both transcribed and/or indexed. Because human-generated transcription is quite expensive, indexing has been the previous focus of the Nunn Center’s access strategy.

However, interviews that have both an OHMS Index and a searchable transcript provide a far better user experience.  

“Transcripts are often littered with mistakes, which participants are cleaning up,” said Danielle Gabbard, the oral history processing archivist for the Nunn Center. “When finished, these transcripts will be synched up to the audio interview itself.”

Transcripts currently being assessed through the initiative include the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame, UK Men’s Basketball and OutSouth: LGBTQ+ Oral History Projects. Forty UK Libraries employees are currently enrolled in the Remote Transcript Authentication Initiative, with more participants joining each week.

“This is a really exciting project for the Nunn Center, UK Libraries and researchers everywhere,” Gabbard said. “This initiative is going to allow us to provide a much greater level of access to our collections in terms of ease of use, search ability and making the information contained in these interviews accessible to people who cannot use them in audio form.”

No special technology is required to participate in the project. Two training sessions were held via Zoom, and work can be completed using Google Drive or Microsoft Word. All audio and video interviews needed to participate in the project are accessible via the Nunn Center’s online repository, SPOKEdb.

The Nunn Center for Oral History at UK Libraries' Special Collections Research Center is recognized around the world as a leader and innovator in the collection and preservation of oral histories. The center is home to over 11,000 oral history interviews that provide a unique look into Kentucky and American history and represent an irreplaceable resource for researchers today and generations from now. The Nunn Center’s collections focus on 20th century Kentucky history, Appalachia, Kentucky writers, agriculture, black history, the history of education, politics and public policy, the civil rights movement, veterans, the university, health care, as well as the coal, equine and Kentucky bourbon industries.

In the coming weeks, UKNow will highlight how various campus units are keeping UK running while finding creative and innovative ways to work remotely. Additionally, we will continue to share stories from students, faculty and staff over the next several weeks using #LearnAnywhereUKY, #TeachAnywhereUKY and #WorkAnywhereUKY on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.