Making a Curated Playlist Reflection

Check out my final Curated Playlist of audio content about the 1978 Camp David Summit from NPR’s flagship program All Things Considered : Final Curated Playlist Digital History

This class has offered me the wonderful opportunity to create my own digital project.  Inspired by the work I was completing for my Public History Practicum course with National Public Radio, I decided to create a fun digital component to accompany the project.  At first I set out to create a Story Map that infused audio with a map of the Middle East and interpretive content. When my practicum group decided to make this tool the center of our project, I had to change gears.

In the context of the larger project, NPR was searching for ways to present archival audio content from All Things Considered on their website for students working on projects for National History Day. After evaluating feedback from my project partner Julie Rodgers,  a public historian working with the Research, Archives, and Data (RAD) team at NPR, I set out to create a playlist filled with curated audio files and short interpretive descriptions to provide background and context for the 1978 Camp David Summit.

There was one huge restriction to meeting this goal for NPR. Since the program All Things Considered conducted numerous radio interviews with outside reporters and news organizations like the BBC, much of their radio content is restricted from the public. In order to work around any clips from the BBC and new stories unrelated to the Camp David Accords, I had to edit the audio. To do this I used Audacity. I have used this program before, so it was pretty easy to cut down the clips and get them saved. All audio chosen had to be cleared by NPR before it was available for use. I am actually still waiting to hear back about a few of the clips.

After choosing the audio, I had to figure out the best way to create the playlist. Inspired by a similar playlist format used by the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, I enlisted the help of my classmate and group member, Josh Zampetti, to help me code a simple playlist. He created a basic outline for me using html. Once I had this outline, I was able to use the code editor, Brackets, to edit the playlist and insert interpretive content.

Using the code turned out to be my favorite  and most rewarding part of the whole project. This was very surprising because I have always said I would never touch code. It was actually really intuitive and understandable once I had the basic outline in front of me. I discovered that all I needed was a little help from google to get everything ready. It was really cool to move beyond my “screen essentialism” and understand what goes into creating the words and patterns on my screen. Hopefully, this new skill will come in handy moving forward and I may try out some tutorials in Python someday!

The main difference between my draft project and my final version is the interpretive text. I attempted to incorporate principles from Beverly Serrell’s Exhibit Labels  to produce a clean interpretive product. Using these principles I refined my word choice to make descriptions easy for students in grades 8-12 to understand.  My text provides a clear description of the audio but doesn’t give too much away. I hope that students will be interested by the descriptions and listen to the audio to learn more.

I hope that the presentation of this audio in a playlist format with downloadable links will encourage students to consider incorporating audio into their own projects for National History Day. Audio is an underutilized primary source, and it should become more accessible to students, teachers, and historians alike.

This playlist will be attached to a larger project called Breaking the Sound Barrier: Interpreting Audio for National History Day. My group will present this information in a poster session for Public History Day at AU on Monday, April 30, 2018. It starts at 4pm if anyone is interested in taking a look. My group will also be taking this project to NPR headquarters on May 9, 2018 to present to their RAD division. We hope that they will use our suggestions as they plan for next years National History Day.



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