Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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How to do low cost transcription of hand written and difficult documents

August 28th, 2007 by Seb Chan

So your museum has already done the easy part of digitisation – taking digital photos of your objects, but now you have a complex hand-written materials you need to digitise . . . what can you do?

This is a question that has popped up in several meetings over recent months.

Our Curator of Information Technology, Matthew Connell, came up with a brilliantly simple solution – and there is no need for the original material to leave your organisation.

With the low cost of MP3 recorders it is very to now record large amount of audio into a single file, already compressed. Take one of these MP3 recorders and ask the expert who is familiar with the document or material requiring digitisation to read the document clearly into the recorder. This may be done over an extended period of time – there is no need to do it all in one go.

When completed, upload the MP3 of clearly spoken audio to a web server. Then use one of several online audio transcription services to transcribe the audio. We have been using such services to get quick, low cost transcriptions of public lectures and and podcasts, and have been impressed with their timeliness and accuracy.

Even factoring in the cost of reading time, this will almost certainly be cheaper and more error free than scanning and transcribing directly from the written original. It also provides significantly more flexibility in terms of pricing as there is a high level of competitiveness amongst audio transcription services at the moment – a level of competition that may not exist amongst specialist written services.

Tags: 1 Comment

  • Angelina

    Brilliant! Can you recommend specific online transcription software – and does it do a better job than Dragon Speak Easy?