Tag Archives: DIY

Interested in heritage podcasting? Here are resources I use that can help get you started

Devices like the Edirol R-09HR, the Snowball USB mic, the Zoom H2 and the iPhone offer a wide variety of options for recording quality podcasts and oral histories for just about any budget.

Sometimes recording a podcast or oral history can be more intimidating than the interview itself. After all, the final product is a tribute to the person you are interviewing. Technology for capturing audio has become simpler and easier to use in the last few years, but sorting out which instruments produce the best results is not as obvious.

I’ve recorded more than 100 hours of interviews in the last year alone. Most of these were heritage related and shared on the web. I’ve learned a few things about recording media (mostly from trial and error) and thought I’d share a few of my recommendations for equipment that will help you record a high-quality product that is suitable to archive (Note: some of these are Amazon affiliate links).

If you have an iPhone, you potentially have pretty decent recorder already. Just download the 99 cent app called “Recorder” from iTunes and you have a device that can capture almost any conversation. Face-to-face interviews are easy, but what makes this app so special is that you can purchase minutes inexpensively to record phone calls to land lines as well. The resulting audio is mediocre, but in cases where you don’t have direct access to your interviewee or the ability to chat with them online, this is a terrific solution.

One of the most popular portable digital recorders on the market is the Zoom H2 Handy Portable Stereo Recorder. I’ve recorded many interviews with this flexible device. The H2 can be used on any standard tripod and comes with attachments that allow it to stand  up on a table for group interviews, or be used as a handheld mic for standing “reporter-style” exchanges. Its chic “old-time radio” design is  unfortunately offset by a cheap plastic casing. But it produces very good sound and is easy to use. At less than $150, it strikes the right balance between price and performance.

For $100 more, the Edirol R-09HR High-Resolution WAVE/MP3 Recorder is my personal choice for audio recorders. In fact, mine goes with me just about everywhere. It’s a tad smaller than the H2 and has a more understated casing of black with silver accents. It doesn’t have any fancy attachments and runs through batteries a bit more quickly  than the H2. So why do I prefer it? It records sound beautifully. Few other portable products come close. The better your sound, the more flexibility you have in sharing it.

Both the Edirol and the Zoom H2 use AA batteries and record to SD Flash Memory Cards. Both come with USB cords to download your recordings. The Recorder app on the iPhone will actually save recordings on the phone or online, giving you a web link to listen to the file, download it, or even share it.

If you would like to record directly to your computer, $70 will buy a pretty decent microphone that hooks into your USB port. Early on, I used the Blue Microphones Snowball USB Microphone (Brushed Aluminum), which has a cool form factor and records well enough for  most folks. I recommend these for quick voice-over work since a laptop and large microphone will likely intimidate most interviewees.

If your interviewee has a webcam, Skype is a great option for recording interviews and provides a more personal connection than a phone call. I’ve interviewed folks from Australia, Scotland, Hong Kong and Naples on Skype with excellent results. Call Recorder is the gold standard software for recording Skype conversations on a Mac. Pamela is its equivalent on the PC. Both are inexpensive downloads, and great for recording conversations with the kids and distant relatives if nothing else.

Whether you choose the  portable or direct methods of recording, you will ultimately need software to edit your files. Fortunately, some of the simplest software options are free. Audacity is an open-source program that runs on Macs and PCs. Garageband is a program that comes standard on most Macs. Each of these products let you “see” the soundwaves in your recording to edit extraneous noise and even out tones.

If you have questions about these products or others for recording your interviews, or would like to start your own heritage podcast, feel free to contact me.

 

Promote the Heritage of Your Community with Interactive Google Maps Tours

For me, appreciating the heritage of a site is being able to understand the context of its location and where it fits in with its history. It makes you want to experience that site and imagine yourself a part of history. A good guidebook strives for this kind of understanding. You can do the same pretty easily online mapping programs like Google Maps, with a lot more functionality. I’ll show you how using a Google Map I recently created for the Cane River region of Louisiana, where I grew up.

Admittedly, this is a lot of fun to create but you’ll get the most out of the product by giving some thought to the goals you are trying to accomplish. What do you want this map to do for you and your heritage resources?

An online map can have a lot of really good uses: to drive heritage tourism, coordinate volunteers, and even illustrate a grant proposal. But each of those reasons require slightly different elements and you do not want to overwhelm your visitors with information they don’t need. Once your goals are set, here’s how you get started with the basics:

Step 1: Creating the Map

  1. Go to http://maps.google.com/ and sign in using your login from any Google service (gmail, Picasa, etc). Click “Get Started.”
  2. Give your map a title and description. The title should be a simple description of the site or collective area. Provide one or two sentences in the description that briefly state your area’s claim to fame. You’ll want to include a couple of external links that provide current authoritative information about the area you’re promoting.
  3. Click the “Save” and “Done” buttons and you have a map!

edit button

Where possible, provide a link that includes contact information for touring your sites. If the site is private or otherwise not accessible to the public, note that as well.

Step 2 : Add Your Sites

As soon as your map is named, add several 5-10 placemarks to it right away. This will give you momentum for keeping the project going and spark interest from potential audiences and collaborators. If you have an address, just type it into the search box and click “search maps.” When the location comes up (and do check to make sure it’s correct on the map) click “Save to …” and select your map from the dropdown menu. Press the Save button, and your first item is created!

save to map

That’s the easy way. Often heritage sites in remote areas do not have exact titles, addresses or even discernible zip codes (it happens!). If that’s the case, you’re going to have to locate it using the “Satellite” view in Google Maps. You’ve probably already used this function to find your own house. To enter Satellite view, just click on the button in the top right hand corner of your map. It may take a few moments to load.

navigation

Once you are in satellite view, it’s time to engage in a spy mission to spot your site.

  1. Go to the map you’ve save and click the Edit button. Then simply click and hold on the map to move it in the direction you want to go.
  2. When you’re in the general area of where you know your resources is, use the slider bar on the right hand side of your map to zoom in (+) or zoom out (-).
  3. Grab the placemarker icon (looks like and upside-down teardrop) at the top and drop it on to your site. This will give your site GPS coordinates and place it on your map.

Step 3: Collaborate!

Increase the effectiveness of your map by adding collaborators, which is as simple as clicking the “Collaborate” link at the top of your maps and entering e-mail address of the best folks for the job. Start with a small group of people you trust and explain why your map is important as well as why you are asking them to collaborate on it. In my case, folks from my group have not only added important sites I didn’t know about, but also alerted me to sensitive sites (such as those with active archaeological excavations) where public attention might interfere.

Step 4: Blogify Your Text

Folks don’t want to read a treatise about your site within the context of an online map. Shoot for brief, descriptive and compelling narrative storytelling. In the short term, a couple of sentences is just fine.

By default the descriptions of your map items are in plain text. The rich text method offers ways to hyperlink text as in a word processing program. With your map still in edit mode, do this:

  1. Click the placemark. The info window will pop up.
  2. Choose Rich Text to type in your description text and use the “hyperlink” icon to add urls for related sites.
  3. After your text is in place, click the Done button. Remember, you can always go back and edit or add more later.

Step 5: Embedding Photos and Videos

With your placemarks and written description of your sites, you’ve done the bulk of the work to accomplish your goals. Now for the polish — those little elements that will captivate your end users. This starts with that bedrock principle of social media: embedding.

Assuming you have photos and videos on sites like YouTube and Flickr, here’s how to embed your media in each placemark description:

  1. Open your map and click the Edit button.
  2. Choose Edit HTML.
  3. Find the video you want on YouTube or Google Video. Copy the snippet of code that lets you embed the video into a website or blog.
  4. Paste the snippet of code into the description field of your placemark, line or shape.
  5. Click OK to save your changes.

html

Note: There is a bit of bugginess with Google Maps and embedding videos. Many folks have had the experience of the embed code for YouTube videos mysteriously disappear from their placemark info box.

Next Steps: Optimize with layers

Another way to get your videos into the appropriate spot (besides HTML) is to use the Video layer. The Video Layer uses the geocoding in your video and will show up after you input an item’s coordinates into the video settings. The video will pop up as an icon when someone clicks the “More …” button on the map and selects “Video.” This also works with photos and Wikipedia entries! Be aware that this could take several days to show up on your map.

Make Your Map a Heritage Icon

Instead of using the default placemark, you can use icons to jazz up the look of your map or to differentiate types of resources at-a-glance. I used a plantation home, a church, a gravemarker and an old building icon (among others) in the Cane River Map. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Find or make icons that best fits your categories and upload them to a photosharing site like Flickr (what you ultimately need is a url for the image)
  2. Go to your map and click the Edit button.
  3. Click the placemark you wish to replace with an icon.
  4. When the info window opens up, click the placemark icon next to the right of the title.
  5. Click “add an icon” and paste the url for the icon you wish to use. The icon will always show up in “My Icons” from now on.

Notable Use:
The U.S. National Trust for Historic Preservation has famously used Google Maps to visually document its Save America’s Treasures, Preserve America and National Heritage Area sites. While maps on this scale can be overwhelming, they do make the case that historic sites are alive and well, and in likely in your neighborhood.

That’s all there is to it! Now you can embed your map into a web page, or share a link to it through e-mail and social media services. Here’s a preview of the Cane River Heritage Map I created. It’s a work in progress, but it’s a great way to help folks experience these heritage resources both virtually and in person.


View Cane River Heritage Sites Virtual Tour in a larger map

John Leeke Preservation Trades V-log: Timber Repair

A hearty welcome to John Leeke of Historic HomeWorks as he joins Voices of the Past’s “staff” of video bloggers. John’s main interest is “helping people understand and maintain their older and historic buildings.” In this entry, he speaks to Paul Marlowe of Marlowe Restorations in Connecticut about proper repair methods. Then, we’re treated to a demonstration of a timber repair.

Saving heirlooms from storm damage

Tropical storms and other flood events are often termed disasters because of injuries, fatalities and the destruction of homes and businesses. Part of the disaster is the loss of family heirlooms.

“I am saddened by the stories of people who have lost so much from floods and storms,” said National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar. “We learn about their stories of survival in the news but also hear about damage to a lifetime of memories – the loss of personal heirlooms is devastating.”

Director Bomar said, “The National Park Service has been at the forefront in the effort to save, preserve and protect America’s treasures for nearly a century. We have tips available from our conservation and preservation experts for people who will be able to save family heirlooms before disaster strikes. And we have tips for how to deal with flood-damaged items.”

The National Park Service, along with other members of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, produced a public service announcement video to help families. It is available on-line.

The following tips are adapted from the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel produced by Heritage Preservation in support of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force.

Preparation before flooding:
Avoid storing family heirlooms in the basement, which is likely to flood.

Evacuate heirlooms, such as family photo albums, when possible–otherwise, place in closets or rooms without windows on upper floors.

Rinsing

Response and recovery after flooding:
Even if they are completely soaked, family treasures can probably be saved, if they are not contaminated with sewage or chemicals. Work on high priority items first.

Freeze books, paper, textiles, and most photographs that cannot be cleaned and dried within 48 hours to prevent mold. Interleave with freezer or waxed paper, if possible. Consult a conservator before freezing metal, plate glass, paintings, some photographs, and furniture.

Photographs: Rinse with cool, clean water, as necessary. Hang with clips on non-image areas or lay flat on absorbent paper.

Books: If rinsing is necessary, hold book closed. If partially wet or damp, stand on top or bottom edge with cover open to 90-degree angle and air dry.

Paper: Air dry flat as individual sheets or small piles up to 1/4″. Interleave with paper and replace interleaving when damp. Do not unfold/separate individual wet sheets.

Textiles: Rinse, drain and blot with clean towels/cotton sheets. Block and shape to original form. Air dry using air conditioning/fans. Do not unfold delicate fabrics. Do not stack wet textiles.

Furniture: Rinse/sponge surfaces gently to clean. Blot. Air dry slowly. If paint is blistered or flaking, air dry slowly without removing dirt or moisture. Hold veneer in place with weights while drying.  Separate the weights from the veneer with a protective layer. Upholstery: Rinse. Remove separate pieces, such as cushions and removable seats. Wrap in cloth to air dry and replace cloth when damp.

Framed paintings: Carefully remove from frames in dry area. Keep paintings horizontal, paint side up, elevated on blocks. Avoid direct sunlight.

Framed art on paper or photographs with glass fronts:  Remove from frames, unless art is stuck to glass. Dry slowly, image-side up with nothing touching the image surface. If art sticks to glass, leave it in frame and dry glass-side down.

If a precious item is badly damaged, a conservator can help. For guidelines on selecting a conservator, visit the American Institute for Conservation site.

Featured thumbnail courtesy of CR Artist on Flickr

 

 

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