Digitization program under way for WWII veteran interviews


TAPES with more than 4,000 interviews of World War II veterans are being digitized in museum archives.

By Austin Eck

In the front lobby of the George H.W Bush Gallery is a door that reads “Staff Only.” Those lucky enough to be granted access behind the door will climb a small staircase to the archives of the National Museum of the Pacific War.

This repository, called the Nimitz Education and Research Center (NERC), is the home of the archives collected for this museum. Like the museum, the NERC is state property under the Texas Historical Commission, and managed by the Admiral Nimitz Foundation.

The museum’s archive personnel began collecting oral histories 30 years ago — cassette tapes, VHS tapes, DVDs and even a couple of Betamax cassettes of interviews with World War II veterans.

In 2000, a group of volunteers were activated to gather as many interviews as quickly as possible. Today, an entire wall of filing cabinets are now filled with about 4,000 interviews.

“The interviews comprise the oral history collection, and now we have undertaken the task of digitizing the entire collection, said Reagan Grau, archivist for the National Museum of the Pacific War.

Grau has led the process.

To convert a cassette tape to a digital format, he has to play the tape in real time, meaning it can take up to two hours to process a batch.

Fortunately, through a grant from the Brown Foundation, the NERC now has an advanced, state-of-the-art “Digital Capture Station” computer system he uses that can play up to 16 cassettes at once. While the tape deck is playing, the cassettes’ analog signals are changed to a digital signal through a mixing board. Then, the new digital signal is sent to a computer where it is recorded.

Grau also is digitizing the transcripts of the interviews.

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