Constructing the Resource: Choices

When bringing rich audio testimony, medical commentary and other material (such as newspaper reports and material from other media) together, we are faced with a challenge. How do we display and link the material, and create a resource of integrity that, at the same time, foregrounds the richness of the content and is easy to navigate? We discuss some of the issues considered below.

Linkages

On starting this work, we realised that there are more linkages to be explored than just a simple set of paired items such as: testimony about a disease – medical commentary on that disease. Indeed, we saw that some testimony explores vivid memories of the experience of being vaccinated, details the effects on families of multiple diseases, or discusses the societal attitudes towards particular diseases or experiences. Coupled with the potential volume of material and number of individual items to be included, this means that we need to continue to develop multiple ways to ‘come at’ the material and to link relevant material.

Some choices made and questions so far

Balancing ease of access with ensuring traceability and archival integrity

As well as embedding audio extracts in our narrative pages, we create each audio extract as a stand-alone item, with a title that gives the gist of its content. This allows us to present the audio in a comprehensive way that is not possible when emphasising user-friendliness when it is inserted into a broader text. This item-level description can include:

  • a link to the Cork Folklore Project Catalogue entry to the full interview, giving the user an opportunity to follow back for more context on the interview and interviewee
  • a full transcript
  • other information such as the interview date and background on the interviewer or the extract
  • tags that identify key content and allow resource users to find all items relating to, for example, ‘measles’, in the resource

We have found that, as a bonus, using the ‘browse individual stories' button brings the user directly to the content, and that browsing the extract titles may be a good starting point to get a flavour of the resource and its contents.

Keeping it clean, clear and attractive: presenting audio

What, then, goes into the narrative pages, when we embed an audio testimony extract? As you can see, a lot of relevant material listed above could be presented with the audio, but we need to keep the narrative pages cleaner than the metadata-heavy item entries.

However, just dropping audio into a page of narrative won’t work, due to its long-form nature that does not allow scanning by eye. Including transcripts would be an obvious choice, but they are too bulky and also, because of the conventions of how information is often presented, run the risk of users privileging the (less rich) text over the voices. If people need or want the transcript, they can click into the item entry. But we don’t want people passing a ‘play’ button by, just because they have no indication of the delights that they are missing. Our solution: we create a short content log of each extract that ‘opens up’ the long-form audio and gives people an idea of what they’ll miss if they just read on.

This is a live resource that will grow throughout 2021 and 2022.