A Guide to Developing Digital Oral History Projects using DH Press, Part 1

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Since the launch of “Mapping the Long Women’s Movement,” people have been asking me how they can develop their own audio-based digital projects using the beta version of DH Press. Given all of the interest, I thought it would be helpful to dedicate an entire post to the process we developed to create the Long Women’s Movement project.

This post (which is broken into two parts – skip to Part 2) provides basic documentation for planning and executing a digital oral history project. Intended as a basic primer, the discussion/instructions will be fairly general. I will conclude this post by discussing some of the ways DH Press might be adapted for audio or visual media projects well beyond the oral history context.

To learn more about whether DH Press is right for your project, you can email me to set up a brief (virtual) consultation.

At a Glance

DH Press is a flexible, repurposable, extensible digital humanities toolkit designed for non-technical users. Designed as a WordPress plugin, it enables administrative users to mashup and visualize a variety of digitized humanities-related material, including historical maps, images, manuscripts, and multimedia content. DH Press can be used to create a range of digital projects, from virtual walking tours and interactive exhibits, to classroom teaching tools and community repositories. Learn more.

We used “Mapping the Long Women’s Movement” as the primary project for developing DH Press. As a result, the toolkit is quite robust in its handling of oral history content.

Specifically, DH Press offers an innovative approach to delivering digitized oral history content through its Audio/Transcript Tool. Traditional library catalogs may host an oral history’s full audio file, accompanied by a transcript (often as a PDF). But that system is often inadequate for finding what you’re looking for, since it relies upon limited indexing and in-browser searching (which only works for exact text matches). And while the audio files are accessible, they are typically underutilized because it is far easier to skim a transcript than listen to a long interview.

Our toolkit allows users to explore audio files and their accompanying transcripts by jumping directly into the audio file, using the transcript and the map-based visualization as anchors for searching and browsing the content. Each marker on the map is associated with a segment of an audio file. When you click on a marker, you’ll be able to listen to that section of the interview, read the corresponding transcript, and see additional information about that audio segment. You can then link out to the full audio/transcript, where you can listen to the entire file or jump around / explore as you like. Read more.

Here’s a brief demo of our “Mapping the Long Women’s Movement” digital oral history project:

What You’ll Need

In order to create your own digital oral history project using DH Press, you’ll need the following:

  1. Digital media files of interviews
    1. Audio Files: mp3 or mp4
    2. Video Files: see this list of supported file formats
    3. Clean/edited transcripts with timestamps
    4. A WordPress website with the DH Press plugin installed and the map library installed
      1. Note: wordpress.com sites cannot support DH Press
      2. Learn how to use DH Press
    5. Third-party streaming account with one or both of the following providers, depending on whether you’re using audio or video files
      1. Audio Files: SoundCloud account (possibly a pro account depending on the amount of content you have)
      2. Video Files: YouTube account

Supported File Formats


Currently, DH Press supports English-language transcripts. We are in the process of testing the tool with Spanish oral histories; preliminary results indicate that we can support Spanish.

In theory, we believe the tool will support any language that can be formatted in encoded as Unicode UTF-8 characters.

Media Files

Likewise, currently DH Press supports audio files streamed from SoundCloud. We are currently expanding the Audio/Transcript Tool to support videos streamed from YouTube. However, we have not yet tested this functionality and cannot guarantee immediate support for this format.

Part 2 of this post will cover the recommended workflow for creating your own Oral History project in DH Press.