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May 13, 2013

Pop Up Archive: beta is here!

Posted by Anne Wootton

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The following guest blog post is written by Anne Wootton, co-founder of Pop Up Archive, a 2012 Knight News Challenge winner. It originally appeared on the PopUp Archive blog.

After an insane and memorable week 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 in the past few weeks. But technology is nothing without content. So what does Pop Up Archive do exactly?

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

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. But 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."

But 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, timesaving and revenue-generating opportunities are going to waste.

So what are you waiting for? Got some trapped archival audio in need of liberation? Request an invite here. If you've already done so, you'll hear from us soon.

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. 

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