A fascinating project taking shape out of Oakland, Calif.: Pop Up Archive aims to become a repository for historic audio now trapped on hard drives and aging analog media -- including cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes. With support from the Knight Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and in partnership with PRX (the Public Radio Exchange), it's providing a home for interviews, raw audio and finished work saved by reporters but now gathering dust -- and slowly decaying -- in basements, attics and closets.
Pop Up Archive offers a Web-based interface for uploading audio files, and then it automatically transcribes the audio to text. (The transcription's far from perfect, but it's a fine start -- and makes it possible to search the audio and play back the exact timestamped result.)
For the last several months, I've been helping beta-test the process, feeding raw interviews from moldy cassettes onto my computer and then uploading them to Pop Up's servers. I have a way to go; you'll see some of the files on my page still don't have audio attached. But I commend the Pop Up team -- including CEO Anne Wootton, a 2004 graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School -- for its efforts to save our work.
If you have raw, historic audio that shouldn't be lost to the world, sign up, dig through those boxes, plug a cassette player into a computer and upload that great stuff onto the Web for history's sake.
And if you're looking for historic audio, you can search the Pop Up Archive.
As I add to the collection, I'll keep you posted here. Today's offering: National Lampoon founder Matty Simmons, interviewed in 1987 for WXRT-FM's "Saturday Morning Flashback" feature on 1970.