Collaboration between The HistoryMakers and Carnegie Mellon University Informedia Project

The HistoryMakers Digital Archive is available to registered users through The HistoryMakers website. Questions on this particular archive can be addressed to

Founded in July of 1999, The HistoryMakers has grown into the nation's largest African American video oral history archive. Its collection includes the interviews of President Barack Obama (then an Illinois State Senator), civil rights leader Julian Bond, and children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman, to name a few.

The interface was originally developed and refined via NSF-funded digital video library work at Carnegie Mellon University under the Informedia research team. The active collaboration of The HistoryMakers and its executive director Julieanna Richardson with CMU makes this work possible. The first collaboration between The HistoryMakers and Informedia was made possible through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Grant LG-03-03-0048-03. The online web Digital Archive benefited greatly from a workshop held at the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) in the summer of 2007 under the direction of Randforce Associates, in the UB Technology Incubator. This workshop started off a multi-year beta test of a stand-alone .NET oral history interface with the University of Illinois, Drexel University, Carnegie Mellon University, and others. Randforce Associates, led by Michael Frisch, in 2009 contributed to the development of the inferential indexing framework supporting the "Search Tags" capability in The HistoryMakers Digital Archive.

The goal of NSF funding under NSF Grant No. IIS-0705491, was to share Informedia processing capabilities and interfaces especially suitable for video oral history collections as open source, for the benefit of other video collection holders and users. The work was presented at the annual Oral History Association (OHA) meetings in 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

On the CMU path to this goal of openly sharing systems, software, and interfaces into digital video libraries, we have beta-tested features with The HistoryMakers as well as other oral history collections. For a roadmap of our foundation work, please consult the following references (and check the video demos below).


The HistoryMakers Digital Archive in a .NET Windows Application (2008 and earlier)

This interface was field-tested at a number of universities, including the University of Illinois (Chicago, Springfield, and Urbana-Champaign campuses), Carnegie Mellon University, Drexel University, and the University of Pittsburgh. The field tests led to a number of iterative improvements, while also underscoring the need for an always-online web access point.