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Are you a Ruben Gaines fan? Would you like to help us out?

We know there’s a lot of Ruben Gaines fans out there. We hear from them occasionally. Did you know that we have a bunch of his broadcast recordings?

Are you wondering who Ruben Gaines was? He came to Alaska in 1946 and originally worked as a radio broadcaster in Fairbanks, but in 1950 he moved to Anchorage and spent many years on the airwaves in Anchorage. He often did whimsical short pieces, both fictional and non-fictional, on a variety of subjects. He was the Alaska Poet Laureate from 1973 to 1978, too. Even people in Alaska who haven’t heard of Ruben have probably heard of one of his most famous characters: Chilkoot Charlie (the Spenard bar is named after the character.)

Some materials from the Ruben Gaines papers

We don’t have a full set of all of his broadcasts. What we have are most of his recordings that were released on LP albums and the broadcast clips he pre-recorded for play while he was on vacation. Up until recently, most of these recordings were only available on reel to reel tape and because of the condition of the tapes, it was difficult for us to make them available. A variety of sources of funding–including from a few folks who wanted to listen to the recordings–allowed us to get them digitized. And then it took a little longer to find the time to put most (not quite all) of them online on the Alaska’s Digital Archives. But there’s one big step left to be done. We’d like to get a text transcription of the clips that are on the Digital Archives. That’s where you (might) come in!

Are you interested in not just listening to the recordings but transcribing them for us? We’re looking for folks who would be willing to take on a clip (or two, or five, whatever) and provide a text transcription for them. If you’re interested, down below are the answers to some questions you might have about the project, including a link to the list of recordings to be transcribed.

One last thing to keep in mind about the recordings before we get on to the project details: we, like many archives, have materials in our holdings that don’t always reflect well on the values of past times and the people who documented them. Some of the content of these recordings is racist, sexist, and will be offensive to some listeners and readers. It’s often difficult for us as archivists, when choosing to keep materials in the archives and especially when putting things online, to walk that divide between being viewed as censoring or promoting viewpoints that we don’t promote. When the Alaska’s Digital Archives was created, we had an advisory board with whom we consulted about putting potentially problematic materials online. The advice we received, and archival professional best practices, was to go ahead and include problem materials because these materials reflect the societal context in which they were created. But not just that, we need to ensure that we are clear about the source of any description provided with the materials, not to alter the record, but to present it as it came to us, and to provide context for the item. In order to achieve that, in each record on the Digital Archives we link to the guide to the collection from which the materials came to help provide a historical context, and by also including in the record the date the item was created (if known) and the source of the item.

On to the project questions:

Why is the Archives trying to get the audio clips transcribed? 

It’s so we can put the transcriptions online in the Digital Archives records for each audio clip. First of all, it makes them more accessible for Digital Archives users that may not be able to listen to audio clips. Secondly, if the transcriptions are in the information that goes with each clip in the Digital Archives, they become keyword searchable on the site which makes them easier to find. 

How do I know which of the audio clips need transcribing? How do I claim the one(s) I want to do?

We have a list with the title of the clip and a short description of the clip. That list also has what we call an identifier code. If there’s one–or more!–that appeals to you, email us at uaa_archives @ alaska.edu and tell us the identifier for the item or items you want to do, and we’ll mark that item on the list as claimed. That list also contains a link to the audio clip online. 

Is there a deadline?

Not really. However if somebody really wants to do some of these and we haven’t received a transcription back for many months, we may re-assign it to another volunteer if we have one.

Will I get credit for my transcription work?

Yes. In fact, it’s one of the requirements of participating in the project. Since the Digital Archives is at heart an educational resource, it’s important that we give credit to the source of information about items in the Digital Archives wherever we can. And since we can’t pay people to do this kind of work, we want to be sure we give you what recognition we can since we sincerely appreciate your help!

Will somebody be editing my work?

Our first stage of the project is to gather initial transcriptions for the audio clips. Then we’ll be seeking people to proofread those and compare them to the original to see if any changes need to be made, or typos fixed, and that sort of thing.  If you’re interested in that part of the work, keep an eye out here on our blog or on our social media feeds for that call. 

How do I get my transcription to you?

Please email them to us at uaa_archives@consortiumlibrary.org. We should be able to receive most document types as an attachment or you can just put the text of the transcription in the body of your email. Put “Ruben Gaines transcription” in the subject line of your email, include the identifier for the clip, and be sure to tell us your name in the body of the email too. 

What kind of documents will you accept?

You can type it out in the body of an email, if you like. If you’d prefer to do it in another type of software, we’d prefer a text file (Wordpad, Notepad, similar) or MSWord. You can submit a PDF but please make sure that text recognition is on so we can easily copy and paste it to other documents. Times New Roman, Arial, or other common fonts are preferred. If you like to handwrite or print things, please have somebody type it up for you and send it to us? While we can read cursive quite well, document scanning software doesn’t always read and copy handwritten or handprinted documents very accurately and we’re trying to make this as simple and quick as possible, especially for the people who end up doing the proofreading.

Why not use one of those cool crowd-sourcing software packages that wouldn’t require all this emailing and documents and such?

We’d love to, but we’ve priced some of the best ones out there. And unfortunately they’re not within our budget. at this time. Maybe someday, if this first project is successful, we can advocate for funding for crowdsourcing software for other similar projects.


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