Sunday, February 24, 2008

Preparing a heritage walk as a podcast

Placing the RHSV lectures online was one project. Podcasts are increasingly used to provide information about exhibitions and also for creating self-guided walks.

During 2007 volunteers at the RHSV prepared an exhibition, History begins at home, which is still currently on display at the RHSV building, 239 A'Beckett Street, Melbourne. The exhibition looked at the buildings and sites surrounding the former Army Medical Drill Hall, part of which now houses the RHSV.

John was asked to prepare a heritage walk for the area and it was decided that one form that the walk could take would be to create a podcast of the walk. Putting the audio files online would allow people to download the audio files to their computer and either listen to the files at home or add them to a portable digital player such as an ipod and listen to the description of the sites while going on the walk.

All projects require a great deal of time in planning and research. John collected information about possible buildings and sites of interest to include in the walk and then prepared a draft map for the walk. He then tested the walk and spent time revising both the walk information and the route the walk was to take before the first recording was made.

This was our first experiment with such a project so we had a number of false starts as we learned to use equipment, work out the best and quietest part of the building to make the recording, establish that one of the chairs squeaked if the person sitting on it moved etc. There were also techniques to learn when recording, especially the speed at which to speak, and the ability to sound confident when recording the text.

The recording was made using a JNC digital recorder with a lapel microphone. A later recording of part of the walk was made using a microphone connected directly to the computer using Audacity.

The first recording made, I then tested the walk. Although I knew the content I had not previously undertaken the walk so I undertook the exercise as someone who knew little or nothing about the route. It soon became obvious that we needed to revise the project and include clearer directions on how to get from point A to Point B. The project had originally been designed as a pamphlet and although directions had been included in the version for the recording, in some places they would not have been clear to a person undertaking the walk. In any project - article or book, exhibition, website etc, the author / designer can become too close to the work so it is useful to have the work reviewed by another person providing another perspective to ensure that nothing has been omitted or might be clearer if expressed in a different way.

The text for the walk was revised and rerecorded and retested a number of times with input from a number of people. I was then ready to edit the audio files to use as a podcast.

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