From New York to Nimbin: amplifying our sound archive via open-source and the machine

Jenna Bain, State Library of New South Wales

Concurrent session 12
Wednesday 15 February 2017, 2:00pm - 2:25pm


In October 2016, the State Library of NSW launched Amplify, an innovative platform that for the first time delivers our digitised audio collections online. Audio files are paired with machine-generated transcripts that can vary in their level of accuracy depending on the quality of the audio. Amplify allows users to correct mistakes as they listen along.

Amplify was built using an open-source codebase originally developed by the New York Public Library Labs, which combined with machine-generated transcripts, has given us an unprecedented opportunity to provide access to our vast archive of sound materials while still adhering to the web accessibility requirements that often present challenges for publishing multimedia content in a timely and cost-effective manner.

By launching Amplify with a localised collection, we were able to partner with the local network of libraries to host a special launch event in the main street of a regional town of New South Wales, specifically targeting a passionate community of local residents and historians, tapping into the enthusiasm of actively engaged community members.

The development of Amplify was driven by the lessons learned from our previous experiences with other crowdsourcing initiatives, as well a set of underlying project principles established to shape a new way of thinking about digital volunteering and what we considered “success” to look like in this space:

  • Equitable access
  • Collaboration
  • Engagement
  • Shared cultural heritage
  • Exchange
  • Value-add
  • Open source

By following these principles we hope to continuously find creative and exciting ways to provide access to our collections, to explore smart and scalable technical infrastructure that incorporates both human and machine outputs and to borrow from and collaborate with others whenever appropriate and possible.

Amplify is the first stage of a larger program of work – a program that intends to expands our experimentation and experience with crowdsourcing platforms and foster opportunity and purpose for a broad community of digital volunteers. The program commits to connecting with a multitude of users who may have differing subject or task-based interests, but who have one key objective in common – to help preserve and enrich the stories of New South Wales’ cultural heritage.

Presentation - Available now.


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