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Feb. 5: Carnegie Mellon's Digital Video Library Technology Will Enable Computer Searches of Harrisburg Oral Histories


Byron Spice                            

Eric Sloss    

Carnegie Mellon's Digital Video Library Technology
Will Enable Computer Searches of Harrisburg Oral Histories

PITTSBURGH—People will be able to quickly search through a huge oral history library being created by the city of Harrisburg for its 150th anniversary in 2010 with the help of Carnegie Mellon University's Digital Video Library (DVL) technology.
The oral history library project, announced Feb. 4 by Harrisburg Mayor Stephen R. Reed, will include video recollections of 150 diverse residents of Pennsylvania's capital city. But unlike many archives, finding and playing a video clip about a particular person, event or topic will be as easy and as fast as a typical Web search thanks to the DVL technology.
"Since the advent of video and audio recording, a vast amount of material that is of historic or scientific importance has been archived, but too often these resources go unused because finding relevant information within a recording is laborious," said Scott Stevens, senior systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). "DVL technology can find this information rapidly by searching transcripts of the recordings, or even the close-captioning or other text that might be overlaid on the video."
DVL, developed by the Informedia Project in Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science, can generate transcripts automatically by using speech-recognition software. But for greater accuracy, the Harrisburg oral history project will use transcripts generated by students at area education institutions such as Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Penn State University Harrisburg and Harrisburg Area Community College.
The oral history project, called the Highmark Blue Shield Living Legacy Series, will include professional videotaping of 150 residents. Carnegie Mellon's ETC is providing assistance in all phases of the production including the research, filming and transcription of the interviews. ETC students will synchronize the final transcripts with each video. Highmark Blue Shield is underwriting the project.
"Creating innovative technologies is always only the first step: seeing them applied in exciting and meaningful ways is the true reward," said Don Marinelli, executive producer of the ETC. "So, Harrisburg's decision to use Carnegie Mellon's Digital Video Library technology to capture the essence of its citizenry and distinguished sons and daughters is a genuine honor for us. I believe Harrisburg will start a trend for cities all around the country eager to create a living — yet virtual — digital village square, one that transcends time space and generations."
Plans call for the oral history archive to be made available for classroom use, creating a resource that will help untold generations of students develop a deeper appreciation for their history and culture.
DVL has been under development since 1994 by Carnegie Mellon's Informedia group. Originally developed to search through video news archives, it has since been used in such applications as preserving the knowledge of retiring intelligence analysts at national security organizations and for cataloguing video documentation of a nursing home's dementia ward.
In a project similar to the Harrisburg oral history archive, Carnegie Mellon researchers led by Michael Christel, research professor at the ETC, worked with The HistoryMakers, an African-American history group based in Chicago, to make 18,000 video clips of more than 400 historically significant African-Americans searchable and accessible. See
For more information on the Informedia Project and DVL, see For more information on the Entertainment Technology Center, see
For information on Harrisburg's "SusqueCentennial" and the oral history project, see