Verbal commentaries

When I was setting out to organise and digitise my parent’s photo collection, I decided I’d try and record my mother talking about some of the photos. I thought this would a) help me to catalogue the photos, and b) produce a record for posterity of my mother talking about her past.  As it turned out I didn’t need the recordings for cataloguing because the notes I made were sufficient; however,  the recordings are certainly excellent additions to the family archives.

To make the recordings, I downloaded the ClearRecord Lite app onto my iPhone. It’s very easy to use – I put the phone on the kitchen table and, when we started to talk about a particular photo, I just pressed the big button with the microphone picture. The recordings produced files in the ‘m4a’ format which Windows Media Player has no problems in playing (M4A stands for MPEG 4 Audio and is a file encoded with advanced audio coding (AAC) – it was generally intended as the successor to MP3, which had not been originally designed for audio).

I ended up with 9 different files ranging in length between 1 and 4 minutes and with file sizes of between  400Kb and 1Mb. To get the files from my iPhone to my laptop I used ClearRecord’s ‘share’ ‘email’ function, and then picked them up from my email in my laptop.

I gave some thought as to how to name the files and where to store them. In the end I decided to keep them with the photos they referred to, and to number them in the same way. For example, if the recording referred to a photo in the set number 894 which contained 10 photos, I would give the recording the number 894-11 and put it in the 894 folder. To highlight in the index which photos have associated recordings, I created a new column labelled ‘Verbal commentary’ to be completed with either a ‘No, or a ‘Yes (mm:ss)’ where mm and ss refer to the length of the recording in minutes and seconds. I’ve also taken to noting the reference number of the recording in the Comments column, for example, ‘The verbal commentary is numbered 894-11’.

I’m very pleased with the results of this exercise. The recordings are clear and give a good sense of what my mother sounds like, how she talks and, to some extent, the sort of person she is. They are short enough to keep the listener’s interest, and they actually  convey some useful information about our family history and about times and places gone by.

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