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Amplify: 6 months on

Nimbin Gathering, Roger Marchant, c. 1973-1985
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In October 2016 the Library launched a new platform for delivering digitised audio materials, Amplify.  The innovative platform works by delivering audio files from the Library's collections alongside contextual photographs and computer-generated transcripts that people can read and assist with correcting.

Amplify was a first for the Library - in a number of ways. It was the first time we were able to provide online access to recently digitised audio materials from our collections; the first opportunity to provide access to detailed and time-coded transcripts of this material; and the first time we - or any cultural institution in Australia - had used machine learning technology to enhance access to its audio collections. 

We launched Amplify with the Rainbow Archive, a small collection of colourful interviews with residents of Nimbin, the regional town of northern NSW, discussing the local lifestyle with a specific focus on the 1973 Aquarius Festival that transformed the region.  The launch was held in the main street of Nimbin and you can read more about the event on our blog.

Next we added Bridge Builders,  another small collection of interviews with a variety of people who worked on the construction of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. This project was timed to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the opening of the Bridge. 

Workmen mixing and pouring concrete with small hand-wheeled hoppers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Ted Hood, 1930-1932?
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The first six months of activity on Amplify has been exciting for the Library and we've seen a fantastic level of engagement with these newly released audio collections. In the past six months we have seen:

  • 4000 individual sessions 
  • 2500 users 
  • 33 different countries 
  • 48,000 edits.

Of the 145 total recordings available on Amplify in the first six months - 

  • 31 individual recordings were 100% corrected by one or more contributors
  • 74 recordings were 50% or more corrected.

The Library is very grateful to the 2,500 digitial volunteers who have worked from their homes and offices  to correct our transcripts. We've heard from many users that Amplify is surprisingly addictive! Most people don't visit the platform with the intention of correcting hundreds of lines of transcripts, but with  audio content that is interesting to listen to and an editing interface that is easy to use, it doesn't take much time to clock up triple digits on your tally of lines edited. A big THANK YOU to our volunteers!

Following the sixth month anniversary of the launch of Amplify we have added two new collections - a series of interviews by Gary Wotherspoon with gay men and women living in Sydney, and interviews with Faith Bandler, an  Australian South Sea Islander woman who was instrumental in the success of the 1967 Indigenous referendum. 

Man holding white cardboard effigy at gay rights rally in Sydney, Geoff Friend, 1978
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The next priority for the Library is to put in place a process for extracting the completed transcripts from Amplify and making them available for research and discovery within our catalogues. It is important to see this 'life-cycle' of the transcription process through so that we can harness the true value of collaborative projects like Amplify and ensure that the hard work and contributions of our  digital volunteers is accessible for all to enjoy. You can help us in achieving this goal by getting involved with one of our digital volunteering projects today!

If you would like to know more about the project I will be speaking in more detail about Amplify at the Oral History Association of Australia conference in Sydney in September 2017, or you can read my blog post on developing and implementing Amplify.


Jenna Bain
Digital Projects Leader,  State Library of NSW