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Traditionally, institutions have viewed holdings—books, artifacts, images—as their primary assets. Colorado Voice Preserve, as an institution, eschews ownership claims. We hope to BE an asset to the community, by providing shelf space for voice. Our institutional value will derive from the ability to create thoughtful information (relying on humanities), apply meaningful organization (based on library science), provide maximum dissemination (through shared cataloging), and offer safe preservation.
Colorado’s State Library is acting as lead agency in a collaborative effort to establish this new repository. Other partners include History Colorado and Colorado Humanities. Each organization represents different disciplines and communities—but, in oral history, the agencies have common interest. The collaboration allows partners to focus specific expertise toward a mutually beneficial outcome. That outcome includes shared infrastructure (technologies and systems); shared facilities, equipment, and staff; agreed-upon standards and practices; and programs and services that compliment diverse cultural activities.
Libraries, museums, cultural agencies, and community groups across Colorado are interested in oral history. Projects may be conceived in response to an event of historic significance; to capture perspectives that have been overlooked; to facilitate community conversation; or to tap a living knowledge that would otherwise be lost. While the desire and need may be keen, most groups (or libraries, or local museums) lack the capacity to carry out projects AND adhere to standards of description, organization, dissemination, and preservation. This is where Voice Preserve can be vital.
Colorado is starting an initiative to create a digital repository dedicated to the preservation of individual stories. The concept is simple: One person’s experience is equivalent to a book. A story is told. We can apply the principles of library science to the audio recording, to reveal its content and facilitate connections between that single story and a larger body of knowledge. To accomplish this, audio must be represented—or reiterated—through different modalities: transcript, abstract, key words, subject headings, etc. Additionally, item-level metadata must be articulated and affiliated with the original sound file.
These steps are time-consuming and labor intensive, but they allow access to the recording as well as the ideas contained within the audio. Metadata elements populate a cataloging record that can be shared among consortium libraries, and a Web-based platform presents and distributes interviews.