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Project Description

The Max Kade Institute (MKI), in partnership with the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures (CSUMC), The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), and the University of Wisconsin Libraries, has received funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to undertake a three-year project aimed at digitizing, interpreting, and making accessible important fieldwork audio collections capturing a variety of American languages and dialects.

Woman holding frying pan
Frying pan? Skillet? Spider? DARE fieldworker Ruth Porter pondering some of the many words Americans use to describe this object, 1965. Courtesy University of Wisconsin–Madison Archives.
Dare workers standing near truck
DARE fieldworkers Reino Maki, Ben Crane, and Prof. Frederic G. Cassidy standing in front of a "Word Wagon," 1965. Courtesy University of Wisconsin–Madison Archives.

The project also seeks to devise culturally sensitive permissions procedures that protect language communities such as Native peoples, with the goal of making available on the Web appropriate audio clips of Native languages.

The American Languages project aims to increase awareness, understanding, and utilization of significant audio collections, and serve as a model for the presentation of other important but technically challenging materials. Additionally, this project should generate guidance for developing collaborative permissions policies that will take into account concerns of communities that have generated intellectual property, and which will offer reciprocity and protection to such communities as they consider making intellectual property available to a wider public.

Project goals include:

Digitizing 900 hours of cassette, reel-to-reel, 78 rpm disc, and rare SoundScriber recordings, selected from three distinctive sound collections: the MKI North American German Dialect Archive, the DARE fieldwork collection, and the Mills Music Library ethnic music collection.

soundscriberA SoundScriber used to record German dialects in Wisconsin

Creating a database with appropriate metadata describing items within the audio collections. We estimate 3,000 entries to reside in this database.

Developing an accompanying website that links to the database and provides interactive maps and interpretive essays, illustrated by 60 hours of audio clips selected from the 900 hours of digitized material.

Man and Woman Discussing Words outside
F. G. Cassidy of DARE interviewing an Indiana consultant, 1975. Courtesy University of Wisconsin–Madison Archives.

Strengthening relationships and establishing workable procedures for securing permissions, guided by tribal laws and restrictions, concerning culturally sensitive Native language recordings. The aim here will be to disseminate information on our experiences in an effort to aid other researchers involved in similar projects.

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Last Updated: February 17, 2011