Resurrecting the Dead

This year  Mansfield University is celebrating its sesquicentennial anniversary. “Sesquicentennial” is a hard word to remember, to spell and to pronounce.  I don’t like it at all but it comes only every 150 years, so I’m stuck with it.

Two years ago, while beginning some research, our janitor/volunteer historian (another story in itself, one that made The Chronicle of Higher Education) found a box of cassette tapes in the library archives.  They contained interviews a history professor conducted with older alumni and college officials in 1973.

One of the women interviewed was the grand daughter of one of the university founders.

When another retired history prof heard about this, he loaned a box of cassettes containing interviews he did in 1987.

We had a gold mine.  Altogether there were about 45 tapes.  I bought some software ($20) to convert analog to digital and set two students on the project.

It took all of last summer. 

When they were digitized, we began the process of editing them.  I gave the students a template and let them write and record the intros and outros. We mixed in music beds, under just the intro and outro.  I wanted to leave the interview as close to the original as possible.

At the end of every interview we make it a point to say that the interviews are not copyrighted and we encourage others to use them in their research or projects. 

The shows certainly aren’t studio quality.  These are interviews done with a cassette recorder using the internal mic in a variety of environments.  But nobody minds. 

Again, the content reigns.

We’ve been posting them gradually over the year on our sesquicentennial website as oral history.

The interviews have been amazingly popular.  We’ve been getting calls from around the country.  The primary sentiment is appreciation to us for making them available. 

Just about all the people in the interviews are long gone.  But thanks to the technology, they’re alive again for an hour, telling their unique stories in their own words.

I share this because I’m sure many you have such treasures in your archives. 

These are tapes that were heard by virtually no one for three decades.  Now people all over the country are listening to them.  All of us understand the benefits in terms of community and alumni relations, and fund raising.

Aside from the software and work study students, it cost nothing.

I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post that podcasting is quickly morphing as new uses are found. 

Keeping the dead alive is one more morph.

 Next post:  Keeping the alive alive—our next project.


Note:  Thanks to Karine Joly for featuring my new experiment in compelling stories, and the Mozart interview.  I hope you check it out and comment.  Karine rightly pointed out that we didn’t include a call to action at the end.  It’s kind of like typos in the headline.  It’s so big you just don’t look at it —until it’s printed. . . .

I’ll keep the advice in mind with future videos. 


One response to “Resurrecting the Dead

  1. Pingback: Preserving the Living « The Higher Ed Marketing Blog

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