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Streaming Media: Crash Course on the HistoryMakers Digital Oral History Archive

Hello! My name is Hunter Moyler, and I’m a second-year MA student in Northeastern University’s history department. In this post, I’m going to tell you about the HistoryMakers Digital Archive (also known as the DA), a video oral history archive that focuses on African-American history.

The DA features 2,695 oral history interviews (compiled into 148,650 video clips) historically significant African Americans, referred to as “HistoryMakers.”   HistoryMakers run the gamut from artists to engineers to politicians to choreographers to opera singers to authors— a treasure trove of valuable and insightful information into the African-American experience.

 HistoryMakers goal is to “educate the world about the struggles, determination and achievements of African American life, history and culture, and to help form a more complete, and more inclusive, record of American history.”    Having worked in the Digital Archive for nearly six months, I can assure you that it accomplishes this goal very well.  Of course, the best way to learn about it is to explore it yourself. 

How to Access the Digital Archive

Accessing the History Makers Digital Archive is simple. As a Northeastern University student, you have access and can log in using the same credentials you would use to get into JSTOR or any other resource accessible through Snell Library.  You will find HistoryMakers listed in the Library A-Z list, also. 

Keyword Search

One way you can locate new videos in the archive is by searching keywords. This is accessible by clicking the “Home” button anywhere on the Digital Archive and using the bar under “Search stories.”  This functions  the same way as any other search engine,  like the ones used by Google and Snell Library. For example, by typing  “Christmas,” into the search bar, this will yield a list of clips in which someone—either the HistoryMaker being interviewed or the person interviewing them—utters the word, “Christmas.”  You can use this function to search for a vast array of clips. Want to hear what a HistoryMaker has to say about dolphins? What about them Yankees? Just type those terms into the search bar.

Phrase Searching

Just like Google, if you want to specify that you’re searching for a phrase rather than simply a word, just use quotation marks. If you are searching for a specific phrase that’s made up of multiple words, you need quotation marks.  For example, for clips about Northeastern University, I would type in “Northeastern University,” wrapped in quotes. That way, the words “northeastern” and “university” are kept together, and we would not locate clips about  Northeastern Idaho University.

 

 

Maker Directory

Another way to find clips in the DA is to use the Maker Directory, accessible by clicking “Maker Directory” on the Digital Archive.   The purpose of this Directory is to allow you to sort pieces of the archive by the identity of the person being interviewed, rather than the words that are spoken in the clip. By using the sidebar on the Maker Directory page, you can narrow down the HistoryMakers you’re looking at by specifying things like their birth state, what they’re notable for, their gender, their career.  

Filtering within the Maker Directory

The Maker Directory is useful if you’re looking for a HistoryMaker who fits a certain profile.  For example, if you want to see clips from a woman HistoryMaker who was born in Illinois and received notoriety as an “EntertainmentMaker”—the HistoryMakers’s designation for someone notable for their contribution. Simply click on those terms in the sidebar, and now the list of HistoryMakers will be filtered to include only those who fit that profile. 

 

Topic Search

The final way to dive into the HistoryMakers Digital Archive is through “Topic Search,” also accessible through the bar at the top of the page. The purpose of this feature is to allow you to sort clips not by keywords spoken, nor by who is speaking, but rather by what the clip is actually about.  Each interview is tagged with topics.  So, as you can see here, you can select from many different tags, and then by clicking “Show Tagged Stories” at the bottom, and then can see clips that are tagged only with the relevant tags you selected. This is a really useful tool if you want to find clips that are about a certain topic, but you don’t want to or can’t narrow down specific search terms.

 

Overview of a Clip

Once you have located your clip from the various searches mentioned here, what does it actually look like when you select a clip?   When you click on a clip, you’ll see a page with the clip’s title, the clip itself, and a transcription of what’s said in the clip. If you found a particular clip using the keyword search, the keyword you searched for will be highlighted in bold within the transcript. In the lower right hand corner, the page will also display a citation you can use if you want to use the clip for an academic paper or presentation. You’ll also be able to go to the HistoryMaker’s “main” interview page, which will list all of the clips from their interview, by clicking “To see the entire interview, click here.” Finally, you can click “Previous Story” or “Next Story,” which will take you to the clip that comes chronologically before or after the one you’re currently looking at.

 

 

 

I think that best way to learn about the HistoryMakers Digital Archive is to explore it yourself.   If you have any questions that can’t be answered with the FAQ on the Digital Archive’s website, please feel free to reach out to me! My email is moyler.h@northeastern.edu.