For the record
Three years ago, the Washington State House of Representatives and the Washington State Archives began converting more than 30,000 audiocassette tape recordings of legislative committee hearings to digital format. Cassette tapes have an approximate shelf life of 25 years before they begin to degrade, and state officials wanted to avoid losing critical historical information as well as make the information widely available. So far, the Washington Digital Archives program has preserved thousands of hours of public audio content and posted it online in a searchable format.
The Washington Digital Archives is the first government program of its kind, and the first to feature Microsoft Research‘s Audio Search technology, which can decipher and differentiate words in audio streams, so users can search for keywords related to their topic of interest. Without the ability to search, the content would remain largely inaccessible.
To date, more than 6,000 hours of House committee hearings from 1973 to 2001 have been converted and posted to the Digital Archives Web site, www.digitalarchives.wa.gov. The state plans to add another 10,000 hours of content to the online archives database over the next two years, and may next use the technology to analyze audio from its archived videos. “This is not just an enormous breakthrough for Washington State record keeping, it is the debut of a groundbreaking way to access public information,” says Sam Reed, Washington’s Secretary of State. “Not only have these records been rescued, but we are introducing a cutting-edge mechanism for the public to access them.”
Project: Legislative Digital Archives
Jurisdiction: Washington State
Agency: Secretary of State
Vendor: Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Research
Date began: 2005