The HistoryMakers Digital Archive

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    The HistoryMakers Digital Archive is an extensive online, subscription database of over 10,000 hours of full-text and video interviews with African-Americans distinguished in the fields of science, culture, politics, the arts, and public life.  

    May 19, 2024 2:30pm
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    The HistoryMakers Digital Archive is is an online subscription database containing over 10,000 hours of full-text and video interviews with African Americans distinguished in the fields of science, culture, politics, the arts, and public life. The HistoryMakers is a non-profit institution committed to "preserving, developing and providing easy access to an internationally recognized archival collection of thousands of African American video oral histories" conducted between 1999 and the present.1

    The HistoryMakers Digital Archive is a continually growing resource, projected to include as many as 3,000 interviews by the end of 2018. The Digital Archive presently contains only a subset of all interviews conducted by the HistoryMakers organization: the HistoryMakers has produced and is continuing to produce African American oral histories for the archive (at present, the HistoryMakers' goal is to complete 5,000 interviews). The HistoryMakers Digital Archive does include the ca. 100 oral histories presently contained in the ProQuest HistoryMakers oral history video archive. THM has noted the relationship with ProQuest will end in 2019.

    Content selection is driven by the organization's definition of a HistoryMaker.2 Interview subjects include more than 200 African American scientists; public figures ("CivicMakers") like civil rights activist Angela Davis and foundation executive Marian Wright Edelman; artists, musicians, and performers; educators and lawmakers; and political figures including General Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan, and (then Illinois State Senator) Barack Obama. Each interviewee page includes biographical information and indexed fields such as category of HistoryMaker, gender, occupation, and decade of birth.

    All interviews were shot on broadcast quality video, and encoded as separate MPEG-1 video files. Interviews are divided at natural boundaries to create thematic video segments (averaging 4 to 6 minutes each). Each segment is accompanied by a fully audit-edited transcript ("based on the Minnesota Historical Society's standards for oral history transcription" and proofread and edited for context and style standards).3 Transcripts are fully text-searchable and linked to the appropriate interview segment. Segments are fully indexed by dates, topics and locations using Library of Congress Subject Headings.

    A small subset of interviews have been enhanced with metadata ("tagged stories") including information on historical context, biographical themes, and interview qualities.  

    The HistoryMakers Digital Archive is the product of the most systematic, wide-ranging attempt to capture the personal testimonies of African Americans since the 1930s Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) recording of former slaves. The HistoryMakers stated, "The HistoryMakers Digital Archive is a unique, one of a kind reference tool that puts the archival holdings of the nation's largest African American video oral history archive that are housed at the Library of Congress at your faculty and students' fingertips."

    For more information on The HistoryMakers Digital Archive, click on the Appendix tab to see the HistoryMakers' brochures and product information. The HistoryMakers presented an informational webinar to the CRL membership in February 2019.


    The platform features text search capabilities, and faceted filtering for interviews that average 3-4 hours in length and that are fully subject-indexed and accompanied by written transcripts synchronized to run alongside each video section. Both transcripts and interview metadata are keyword searchable and the interface provides abstracts of every 30 minutes of recorded testimony, in addition to the interviews being segmented into granular 3-5 minute ‘story’ segments. 

    Users may create "playlists" to store, organize, and share interviews with other authorized users. 

    Hosted in Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and developed using Microsoft’s Angular 2 platform. See Appendix tab for an overview of database features. URLs provide for easy citing and sharing of video segments. Users can organize, annotate, create and save clips under their own playlists. 

    MARC records at the interview level are available for subscribing institutions. 


    The HistoryMakers Digital Archive is available as an annual subscription, with a subscription period of July 1-June 30.  One-time purchases are not available.

    The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is the exclusive licensing agent for academic libraries in the United States and Canada.

    To review a sample of the subscriber license agreement, click here.

    Non-CRL or non-NERL core libraries will be assessed a service fee of no more than 3% of the subscription price.

    For institutions interested in trial access, price quote, and a subscription, please contact CRL's Francis Alba at

    To subscribe to The HistoryMakers Digital Archive, institutions will need to sign a final copy of the Subscriber License Agreement and complete the Order Form and return to  

    For CRL to provide a final copy of the Subscriber License Agreement, CRL will need to know the student FTE, intended start date of the subscription, and the number of years the institution would like to subscribe.

    Additional Reviews in Other Sources

    1. "Background" (accessed 8 March 2019)

    2. "Who is a HistoryMaker?" Frequently Asked Questions, (accessed 8 March 2019).

    3. "Digital Archive Procedures"

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