Digital Public History Project (6): Interviews and Infrastructure

Since my last blog post, I have made significant strides in dealing with the challenges presented along the way with completing this project. While inconveniences abound due to the ongoing pandemic in my state, I am happy with what I am to report on this in this update.

Interviews

I have now conducted two of my scheduled interviews. I was originally shooting for a total of three, ideally four, but will settle for two if that is all I am able to get at this point in time. One interview was conducted via Skype because my participant was practicing social distancing through self-quarantine and the other was conducted in person with my mom who has knowledge and experience pertaining to what my project is about. Taking the advice of my professor, I did obtain consent from both of them to record the interviews and use this for this purpose. While I was able to obtain permission from one individual in both written and (recorded) verbal formats, I could only gain (recorded) consent from the other. When circumstances permit, I hope to get his consent in written format as well.

A thing I wanted to note in a blog post regarding how I am conducting these interviews (and something I will likely mention on the project site itself) is that they are done from an Indigenous ethical perspective. To summarize what this looks like, Indigenous cultures have a big focus on relationality and reciprocity. This means that at the center of our dealings is the meaning of relationships and that to maintain healthy relationships, we need to “give back” when we are given something. The interviews that will be hosted in the exhibit have been edited (more on that in a second) to reflect a typical question-answer type of conversation, but were in reality longer than the final time of the recordings. Indigenous cultures in general are largely oral cultures and many have honed their skills as orators. It would be inappropriate to cut them off before they are finished making a point or to “sharpen” my questions, so to speak, if I think their answer doesn’t get to the point I want. When interviewing Indigenous persons, especially Elders, it is important to let them talk as they are answering your questions in a way that suits their cultural background.

Once the interview has concluded, it is key to give something back. I promised each participate the following:

  • Allow them to hear the final edit of the interview and gain their permission before going live
  • Send them a link to the exhibit so they may evaluate the fruit of their contribution
  • Offer them a bag of tobacco (for ceremonial use)

After a quick crash course using a free open-source editing software known as Audacity, I was able to get the interviews edited within a total time of three hours. This was quite the task as I have very little skills in this area, but I quickly learned enough to clean up the recordings. I edited out dialogue that wasn’t necessary for presentation purposes, clean up audio distortions (there was a lot with the Skype call), and cut the time down to what I felt was a comfortable amount for visitors to the exhibit.

I am hoping to still conduct at least one more interview, but these will have to suffice for now.

Infrastructure

While trying to nail down the interviews has been difficult enough, building the infrastructure of my Omeka site and exhibit have not been as smooth sailing as I would have wished. I decided to switch to a different theme for the site as a whole, but after several attempts, a number of the themes did not seem to work properly. By the time I realized what my mistake was (the proper upload procedure of the .zip file into my file manager for Reclaim Hosting), I had settled on one of the three preset themes existing for the site.

This ended up working out just fine as I do like the theme I chose. After the redesign of my primary blog site, I didn’t want to fiddle around too much with another redesign for the Omeka site. I did install the CSS plugin, though, and critiqued my header a tad so it looks neater than what it was.

During this time, I also finally got all my other content edited for copyright approval and they are now live too. As instructed, I took snippets of the headers and beginning lines of the articles to establish a visual reference point for my narrative descriptions. Now the goal is to finishing crafting the narratives, create the pages in the exhibit to present the items, and insert the narratives. I am still planning on dividing the exhibit into several sections that provide an encompassing observation of the event and hopefully the narrative text will answer the questions I am using to guide this project. I think I will still need to build out the content slight, but it is progress.

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Kyle

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