09 December 2015

An Archival Intern's Transcribing Experience

SAHA’s ongoing Struggle T-shirt Project aims to consider the visual vocabulary of the liberation struggle in South Africa. Frances Andrews (a fashion curator and theorist focusing on political clothing especially struggle t-shirts) conducted multiple interviews with people who were either directly involved in the making or the designing of struggle t-shirts.  SAHA has in its custody over 350 struggle t-shirts which is a number that continues to grow as it collects modern t-shirts as well which represent the human rights issues that people are dealing with currently.AL2540_A353

Part of making sure these interviews are accessible on the SAHA website includes transcribing the interviews so that a readable text file is available online for the public. The transcribing process is one that can at times be time consuming; it formed part of my intern experience and was one that I found particularly challenging but also extremely interesting due to the content of the actual interviews. The most interesting part was learning through the interviews about the various aspects of t-shirt making including but not limited to; content, design, distribution and the material chosen.

Transcription software helps a lot in the process, one can type out the document while using the same program to stop/start the recording as well as slow down the pace of the recording which allows easier transcribing especially when it is a group interview. Express Scribe Transcription Software was the program that was chosen, it is extremely easy to use and having the audio you are transcribing on the same program, as the text you are typing is helpful.

 When it comes to transcribing it is important to transcribe exactly what is being said, that means not making people sound more or less intelligent than they are. If they use contractions those need to remain, similarly if there are grammatical errors in their speech do not correct these. When doing research on the transcribing process there seems to be a debate around adding interjections (um, ah, hmm etc), it seems that removing them can make the speaker seem more clear (in thought) than they actually are, but some believe that keeping them in the text is unnecessary. 

Group interview conducted by Frances AndrewsThere are challenges with all interviews, including sound quality and the clearness of the speaker’s voice, but group interviews are particularly challenging as they have many voices, which sometimes are quite similar. It is therefore important when you’re doing a group interview to also record video footage of the interview, that way it is easier to clarify who is speaking at various times.

Transcribing is a laborious process and can be even more time consuming if you are not accustomed to it. It is also a necessary process though, especially in a place like South Africa where oral histories are so important. For this particular project it was quite an enjoyable process as the topic of conversation was an interesting one.


See more information on the ongoing Struggle T-shirt Project

See more on the entire SAHA Ephemera Collection (AL2540)