Request for information: construction of multimedia database on Mexican revolution
Wed, 3 Mar 1999 12:14:44 -0800 (PST)


I'm a graduate student working on a rather ambitious multimedia project here
in Mexico City. I'm writing to ask for suggestions, advice, ideas... on any
aspect of the project... though ESPECIALLY re: what software packages might
be useful/available/appropriate, as well as the entire software
design/development/implementation process...

The project is still more or less in its infancy. It entails the production
of a DVD-ROM containing the following:
- approx. 280 hours of (audio) recording of interviews with participants in
the Mexican revolution (which took place at the beginning of this century)
(The audio will be stored in MPEG-3 format.)
- the transcripts of those interviews
- scanned images of about 1200 historical documents from the Mexican revolution
- a sophisticated database program which will allow complex searches on
keywords and on words contained in the interviews and the documents.

Essentially, the idea is to provide these original historical sources in a
format that's both accessible and useful many people--including high school
students, TV and film producers, professional researchers--we forsee a
relatively wide audience. Up until now, these sources have only been
available to a select few, and in a non-searchable form. It is believed
that, of all the peasant rebellions in history, the Mexican revolution is
among the best-documented; and MUCH work remains to be done with the
mountains of documents that are out there.

In addition to the DVD-ROM, there is the idea of making the same content
available on the internet.

We are currently trying to find out if there are any ready-made multimedia
database packages which would be suitable to this project. We're also
trying to figure out how much it would cost to have someone create the
software appliaction entierly or partly from scratch. As this is a purely
academic venture with quite a limited budget, we're hoping that some
companies or research institutes might be able to donate software
components, or at least provide them at reduced cost.

Following is a brief summary of the functions which the software MUST preform:

- the encoding of text files (the transcripts of the interviews and document
summaries) with subject tags
- the creation of an index of all the words contained in the text files
- complex searching on the word and subject indexes--and hopefully the
combining of these two types of searches
- the ability to take into account certain subtlties of language when
performing searches--i.e., the linking of different forms of Spanish verbs,
of different possible spellings of Mexican place names, of synonyms of the
keywords used to encode the text, etc.
- the ability to reproduce specified segments of audio recorded in MPEG-3
format, as well as the ability to display image files

These are the main functions which we've come up with thus far, though, of
course, we may have overlooked a few. Many people have suggested designing
a user interface using HTML, and that's the route we would like to follow.

Again, we'd MUCH appreciate any ideas, advice, suggestions, you
have--whether regarding the project in general, the suitability of any
software you know of, use, or distribute, or any other sort of support you
might be able to provide.

Thanks a lot!


Andrew Green

P.S. If anyone's interested, I can send a more complete description of this

P.P.S. If anyone out there also has information on what's the best method
for preserving audio documents (digitization, chemical treatment of old
magnetic tape, etc.) for as close to eternity as possible, please let me
know! We've been considering creating an archive of un-compressed and
un-cleaned-up audio (i.e., the plain audio, BEFORE the background noise has
been removed and BEFORE it's been converted to MPEG-3 format) and saving it
on recordable CDs. However, we're unsure about the permanence of this medium.