Pop Up Archive Makes Audio Searchable, Findable, Reusable

    by Anne Wootton
    May 22, 2013

    After an insane and memorable week at SXSW Interactive in Austin in March, we came away with our work cut out for us: improving Pop Up Archive so that it’s a reliable place to make all kinds of audio searchable, findable and reusable. Thanks in no small part to the brilliant development team at PRX, we’ve come leaps and bounds since then.


    what it can do

    Pop Up Archive can:

    • Generate automatic transcripts and keywords so that audio is both searchable and easy to organize.
    • Provide access to an archive of sound from around the world.
    • Save time and money for producers, creators, radio stations, media organizations, and archives of all stripes.

    We’ve been opening the site to select groups of pioneering users, and we’d love input from the community. Request an invite here.

    The content creators and caretakers we’re talking to have valuable digital material on their hands: raw interviews and oral histories, partial mixes of produced works, and entire series of finished pieces. They can’t revisit, remix, or repackage that material — it’s stored in esoteric formats in multiple locations. And it gets lost every time a hard drive dies or a folder gets erased to make more space on a laptop.

    We’re hearing things like:


    “Someday I’m gonna spend a month organizing all this, but I plug [hard drives] in until I find what I need.”

    “Imagine being able to find a sentence somewhere in your archive. That would be an amazing tool.”

    “Unfortunately…we don’t have a good way of cleaning [tags] to know that ‘Obama,’ ‘Mr. Obama,’ and ‘Barack Obama’ should be just one entry.”

    No one wants to figure out how to save all that audio, not to mention search on anything more than filenames. Some stations and media companies maintain incredible archives, but they’ve got different methods for managing the madness, which don’t always line up with workflows and real-world habits. Content creators rely on their memories or YouTube to find old audio, and that works to a degree. But in the meantime, lots of awesome, time-saving and revenue-generating opportunities are going to waste.

    Want a taste from the archive? Let Nikki Silva tell you about “War and Separation,” one of the first pieces The Kitchen Sisters produced for NPR in the early 1980s.

    Read more in the press release.

    Anne has worked with independent producers The Kitchen Sisters and national grant agencies to identify preservation and access opportunities for independent radio. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of California Berkeley in Information Management and Systems, where she focused in digital archives and the sociology of technology. She contributed to the creation of The Discipline of Organizing, a textbook in use at I Schools nationwide that unites perspectives about organizing from engineering, library science, and other fields. She is a 2012 SoundCloud Community Fellow and winner of the 2012 Knight News Challenge: Data. Before arriving in California, Anne lived in France, and managed a historic newspaper digitization project at Brown University.

    Tagged: #pubmedia archiving oral history Pop Up Archive prx radio

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