In 2005, the University of Kentucky Libraries, through its Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History and department of Digital Programs, embarked on a two-year pilot project studying mass digitization of oral histories. The goals of this project were to develop a workflow for digitizing and preserving oral histories and to provide online access to these oral histories. Eric Weig and Kathryn Lybarger designed a user interface for the oral histories that would use embedded time-codes in interview transcripts. The time codes were manually embedded in interview transcripts by student employees.
By 2008, only fifty interviews had been placed online utilizing this method. The manual embedding of time codes proved tedious, error-prone, and unsustainable. Additionally, no individuals working on the project had experience working with oral history. Two events changed this. First, the Libraries hired Dr. Doug Boyd, a nationally-known expert on oral history, as director of the Nunn Center. Hiring Doug brought much-needed expertise and perspective on oral histories and digital access to the Libraries. Boyd and Weig actively sought a more efficient system for connecting textual searches to corresponding moments in the online digital audio and a more user-friendly user interface optimized for oral history interviews. Following numerous napkin drawings and discussions, the Nunn Center contracted programmer Dr. Jack Schmidt,to program a web-based system to effectively and efficiently embed time codes into interview transcripts and to develop a corresponding viewer to connect the time-code to the corresponding moment, dramatically improving the user experience. In the Fall of 2008, the Nunn Center began processing interviews in the newly launched web app called “OHMS,” the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer and began uploading hundreds of interviews onto the Kentucky Digital Library, accessible through the integrated OHMS viewer.
In February 2009, temporary maintenance of OHMS was assigned to Dr. Michael Slone, a programmer for the Libraries. Over the next two years, Michael worked with Doug, Eric, and others to produce a complete functional specification of OHMS.
Acknowledging the OHMS was originally written only in-house implementation, in early 2011, the Nunn Center commissioned Artifex Technology Consulting, Inc to rewrite the code for OHMS, optimizing the system for eventual open-source distribution. Additionally, Artifex implemented Boyd’s designs for an interview indexing module. The addition of the indexing module in OHMS created the ability to index or annotate oral histories at the segment or story level and integrated video compatibility.
In October 2011, OHMS is featured in an article “New Tool Could Help Researchers Make Better use of Oral Histories,” by Brad Wolverton in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Also in 2011, the University of Kentucky Libraries was awarded an IMLS National Leadership Grant to enhance OHMS’s compatibility with common content management systems and prepare OHMS for free-software distribution.
In 2012, the redesigned OHMS viewer is implemented for the Explore UK repository.
In 2013, the initial version of OHMS is made available to grant partners. OHMS is featured in the article OHMS: Enhancing Access to Oral History For Free by Doug Boyd in issue 40, volume 1 of the Oral History Review. OHMS is featured by the Lexington Herald-Leader in the article “University of Kentucky’s Oral History Program Potentially Revolutionary” by Taylor Harrison.
In 2014, OHMS becomes publicly available.