The Heritage collected in the interviews and captures of Memory or Oral History generates as a result a labyrinth of questions, answers, phrases, songs, life stories, experiences ... that grows and forks as our archive expands with each interview we carry out, making it more and more complex to locate the material already collected and studied. As a research, cataloging and dissemination system, Dédalo proposes a methodology that helps to find the paths within this labyrinth.

Oral History archives usually contain thousands of hours of audiovisual recordings ordered or classified by informants, themes, etc. and they may be digitized to a greater or lesser extent.

The advantage of digitizing audiovisual material is undeniable today; Materials in analog formats (tapes, celluloid ...) are vulnerable to the passage of time and copies tend to lose information from one copy generation to another. But digitization in itself does not allow the location of a specific topic within the content of an interview, making it necessary to view or listen to hours and hours of content for the identification of relevant fragments in the interviews subject to our consultation or investigation. In the interviews, various topics are usually dealt with, related or not to our research, and the location of the remarkable moment or the thematic relationship between specific fragments of various interviews, was often carried out manually, after a laborious selection work.

From the first version of Dédalo, the idea of "audiovisual fragment" or "outstanding heritage moment" was already among the basic concepts contemplated in the technologies that this new application implemented. The entire programming process was based on the conviction that: "when more an archive grows, more difficult it will be to find and access specific or relevant material, rendering the archive inoperative and inefficient in the long term."

On the other hand, we had the self-imposed need to maintain the unity of the interview, with which the classic edition of the original material to separate the relevant content, did not seem to us the most appropriate procedure. We wanted to maintain the integrity of the interview so that we could have the full view of the content or be able to get more context than the mere isolated fragment. In addition, the archive of the edited interviews became a rigid system that made the material already processed not allow changes to be made without having to re-edit the original material, forcing us again to watch hours and hours to adapt it to new needs. Obviously, this content management system did not allow the free search by a visitor or the realization of new indexes within the material without an added effort ... we had to respect the original content.

We also considered that the selection and fragmentation work had to be carried out by the personnel who carried out the research itself, in addition to being revisable and expandable later. 

We faced the challenge of generating a system that would allow the editing of the material in real time, without the intervention of external personnel or specialized companies, that would respect the integrity of the interview, make it possible to freely search the entire file and provide us with a clear identification of material as quickly and accurately as possible. In summary, we wanted a system that was capable of locating, among thousands of hours, the specific moments, the specific sequences, where the interviewees tell us about their most valuable experience.

For example, in a study on social relations, we may want to locate the fragments that tell us the affiliation of the interviewee, or in a study on agricultural work, locate a specific «de Batre» song that an interviewee spontaneously interpreted when recalling moments of I work in the fields ...

The work methodology that was proposed in the project to achieve these objectives was:

  1. The interviews would be digitized in their entirety and would not be edited, respecting their complete content.
  2. The transcription would be related to the moments of the audiovisual material that it describes.
  3. The recordings would be fragmented "virtually", not physically, on indexing the transcript with the thesaurus.

When the researcher selected a relevant fragment of a transcript and indexed it with the thesaurus, Daedalus would know from the time references where to "cut" the original audiovisual material when requested. 

In this way, we can generate virtual fragments of the material that are textual references and contain all the necessary information for the identification of the patrimonial moment, including the marks that allow the location within the audiovisual archive. 

This enables the material to be "cut" in real time and to serve or view specific fragments of the interview in each request, without having to pre-cut or edit the specific moments that correspond to the request. 

With this methodology, the curator could fragment the interview wherever he needed, without editing the original material and with the possibility of making as many indexes or fragments as his research required, sequentially or nested. 

Using this procedure, the indexes are linked to the terms of the thesaurus and are easily located, being automatically grouped within the term or subject that describes them. 

As the audiovisual material is kept complete and without modifications, it is only fragmented at the time of consultation, being able to expand the vision of the requested fragment at any time to obtain a broader context. This action is carried out simply by asking Dédalo to add a few extra seconds or minutes or we may even require the complete interview.Furthermore, it is possible to carry out free non-themed searches within the transcription, locating the audiovisual material in the same way as the textual material is located and retrieving it as "virtual fragments" of the interviews that correspond to this free search.

As a good practice in the study of Oral History, we understand that every interviewee has to be able to decide whether or not a part or all of their history can be publishable at a specific moment and this is another of the conditions that this methodology solves: control about sensitive content or access restriction.

Having control over the audiovisual material, not only in its entirety but at the level of the specific fragment, it is the file manager who manages the access, respecting the decisions of the informant and being able to decide whether an interview is consulted by the general public and / or restricting access to specific fragments for which we have authorization, leaving out of the publication those parts that the informant does not want to be disseminated. 

Every interview starts from the interviewee's unique approach, and since memory is an unstable and fickle source, he embraces his memories in a concrete, unique and subjective way (partial although he tries to be very objective). 

Being able to combine the audiovisual fragments of many participants under the same theme, offers us a multi-focused vision that broadens and enriches the perception for each subject discussed. 

In traditional systems, the contents are indexed verbatim, in Dédalo, in addition, the audiovisual moment of each of the interviewees can be consulted. This modus operandi offers a closer and more human vision than the same content offered only in textual format, providing non-verbal language, expressions, looks, gestures, silences ... contextualizations, places, etc., all of which are so important to understand. the experience that has been bequeathed to us.

The interviews managed in this way preserve the indexing capacity and relation inherent to traditional textual work with the addition that this management is also applied, without additional effort, to audiovisual material.

An working tool for Oral Memory

As a philosophy when approaching the work system, we propose that, as a project that includes Oral History among the heritage it manages, it would be the most logical and efficient thing to do, to use the long, well-documented and complete methodology of work that professionals in the field of Oral History research have developed and used over the years:

capture -> carry out the interview/s -> transcribe -> index with the thesaurus -> publish

Maintaining coherence with this methodology, the researcher would not have the feeling of being in front of an alien or confusing system, with terms or modules that do not correspond to their daily work.

Therefore, an organization and a working method had to be generated within the system, which followed the guidelines established in traditional research.

This same methodology of the work process was incorporated into Dédalo in the form of independent modules, where the researcher completes the information until the results are published.

The sections and proceses introduced in Dédalo for Oral Memory are:

Register the Interview -> Transcript -> Indexing with the thesarurs-> Publication

Interviews, informants and audiovisual tapes.

The interviews are the records generated from the beginning of the field work: each time we locate a possible informant or interviewee, each recording that we make and its related information, each patrimonial element that we locate, each medium where we have the audiovisual material registered ...
all this together is an interview.

The inventory of interviews is the section that contain every record of our archive:
  • Each interview has informants (one or more) who are the people interviewed.
  • Each interview contains at least one or more "tapes" that are the audiovisual containers.
The work methodology in this section is again based on the researcher's daily work, starting with the first contact with a possible interviewee (who is registered in the "Person under study" section) and going through the moment of recording the interview. the registration, digitization of audiovisual material and its dump into the system, converting each of the captures into the container of all the material related to the Heritage registered in each case.