Jordanian and European institutions work together for the promotion of oral history in Jordan

In 2018 and 2019, Jordanian, German and French institutions1 conducted a joint oral history project “Our Memory: Stories of Jordanian Oral Memory in the Twenty-first Century”, leading to the creation of a sound archive fonds. Students from the participating universities conducted field surveys with informants from different parts of Jordan, with a focus on two specific themes: the period of the First World War in Jordan (theme chosen for the year 2018, corresponding to the first collection of the fonds), and sites of memory in Jordan (year 2019, corresponding to the second collection).

This project was an opportunity to train the the participating students and the professionals from the National Library of Jordan in the documentary treatment of this particular material that is the oral archive. The expertise of the “phonotheque” (MMSH sound archives centre) in this area was therfore welcome. Two training sessions have been held (November 2018 and November 2019). In addition to the participation of Véronique Ginouvès in the training, the MMSH sound archives centre provided the Department of the National Library of Jordan, which is responsible for the preservation of the documents, with its tools for the promotion of sound archive.

In this sequence, Falestin Naili presents the framework and the objectives of the oral history project:

Falestin Naili presents a collective project for oral History in Jordan, record 6149

Véronique Ginouvès and Jean-Christophe Peyssard at the National Library of Jordan during the training for oral history archiving, 2018-11.


The work on the archival fonds was carried out in two steps:

1 – December 2019: On this first stage of the documentary treatment, a complete inventory in three languages (French, English and Arabic) of the 825 documents contained in the fonds was drawn up. It includes:

  • 118 field recordings (29 for the first corpus and 89 for the second) i.e. 47 hours and 13 minutes;
  • 121 transcripts (for some interviews, only the transcript had been kept while the sound file had been lost);
  • 420 pictures and seven short videos (a few seconds each);
  • 99 authorization contracts signed by the informants;
  • 29 survey reports and survey working papers;
  • 3 slideshows by the investigators;
  • 17 clips from interviews selected by investigators for the “Sites of Memory” exhibition2;
  • 6 slideshows used during the training;
  • an audio recording of the presentation of the project by Falestin Naïli;
  • four founding documents of the oral history project (cover letter, report, call for applications, program)

The audio files, which had been recorded into various formats (m4a, mp4, 3gp, mp3) on the students’ mobile phones, were converted to WAV format (uncompressed audio file format) in order to comply with the preservation standards recommended by the CINES (French National Computer Center for Higher Education)3. This conversion into WAV format does not make possible to find the audio quality of a file recorded in an uncompressed format, yet it will then be possible to play the WAV files correctly in order to transfer and store them over the long term.

After the conversion, the documents occupy a relatively large volume (30.1 GB).

The files were renamed following a file naming plan (see step 2), then reorganized into the directories.

Besides, 81 pictures out of 420 were put online on the CNRS MediHAL platform for scientific photographs and images.

This first stage of the documentary treatment led to the creation of two online catalogs:

The first catalog is integrated into Ganoub (phonotheque database) and provides a description of the sound documents of the fonds. The metadata is written in Dublin Core format, which is an interoperable XML format used to describe documents in a simple and standardized way4.

The second catalog was made on Calames, the online catalog of archives and manuscripts of higher education developed by the Abes (French Bibliographic Agency for Higher Education). For the writing of the metadata, Calames uses the EAD (Encoded Archival Description) format, which is an XML format created especially for the description archive documents. In addition to the sound archives, cataloging on Calames made it possible to describe the textual documents, slideshows and pictures of the fonds. It was also an opportunity to index the documents with Idref (“Identifiers and Referentials”, indexing application developed by the Abes). The indexing was improved by the entering of new authority records linked to the content of the fonds (in particular place names).

Exported from Ganoub and Calames in XML format (EAD and Dublin Core), the catalogs can be stored in a stable and long-term way with the documents they describe. A final export will be made for the preservation on the CINES servers5.

Cataloging on Ganoub and Calames is made in French, but since the working languages of the oral history project were English and Arabic, it was interesting to describe the collections in these two languages. The text document presenting the collections (online) puts forward an indexing of the fonds with the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).

2 – January 2020: Following the documentary treatment of December 2019, the work was revised and deepened in a second step:

The file naming plan integrated a unique identifier (inventory number) which is shared by the phonotheque and the Department of the National Library of Jordan. In addition to this unique identifier, the files names show the collection and the type to which the document belongs.

Institution Fonds Collection  Type  Item
NLJ (National Library of Jordan) OM (Jordanian Oral Memory Narratives in the 21st century) 1 World War One in Jordan S Sound 6055 to 6184 (phonotheque’s inventory number)
2 Oral History & Sites of Memory P Picture 01 to…
C Contract 6055 to 6184 (phonotheque’s inventory number)
T Transcription 6055 to 6184 (phonotheque’s inventory number)
A Appendix and reports (including sound clips) 01 to…
V Video 01 to…
WD Working and training documents 01 to 10
6149 (phonotheque’s inventory number)

Table 1: File naming plan

The treatment of the fonds was also improved by the format standardization of text files and slideshows. These files were originally created in different formats: DOC, RTF, ODT for text files, PDF and PPT for slideshows. The text files have been converted to ODT (OpenDocument Text) format, which is an open and lasting format fixed by the ISO 26300 standard, recommended for the preservation of text files by the CINES. The slideshows have been converted to PDF which has been an open format since 2008 and which is recommended by the CINES. Indeed, the ODP (OpenDocument Presentation) format does not appear on the CINES list of recommended formats, and moreover, the conversion to ODP of slide shows in PPT format tends to alter the content.

This work of standardizing text files and slideshows resulted in their posting on Nakala, a service set up by Huma-Num to deposit, document and disseminate research data. The documentary notices on Calames thus refer to the complete transcripts of the interviews, in addition to the audio recordings.

A project to be continued

Participants expressed their desire to continue the project, depending on the capacities of partner institutions. This could be an opportunity to give a real place to oral archive in the fonds of the Department of the National Library of Jordan. If the archiving of this collection made it possible to boost a policy in favor of sound archive, the participants could still improve themselves by anticipating the archiving as soon as the interview are recorded: recording into WAV format, extraction of metadata and production of an inventory which is to be completed throughout the field surveys, file naming, etc.

Photo credit: Mohammad Al-Rawad, Comparison between a street of Ma’an today and an old picture of the same place, Our Memory Archival Fonds (National Library of Jordan), 2019, CC-BY (hal-02422800)

Citer ce billet  / Cite this post : Claire Grégoire Saint-Pierre, “Jordanian and European institutions work together for the promotion of oral history in Jordan”, Les carnets de la phonothèque, 4 mars 2020,

  1. The Goethe-Institut, the Institut français de Jordanie (IFJ), the Institut français du Proche Orient (Ifpo), the National Library of Jordan as well as the University of Yarmouk (YU), the University of Mutah, the University Hussein Bin Talal and the University of Jordan []
  2. See the post published in October 2019: []
  3. The Cines “Facile” Service draws up a list of archivable computer formats: https: //facile.cines. fr/. []
  4. “Dublin Core”, Wikipedia :, consulted on 03/02/2020. []
  5. See the post published in September 2018 (in French): []

OpenEdition vous propose de citer ce billet de la manière suivante :
Claire Cialone-Grégoire (4 mars 2020). Jordanian and European institutions work together for the promotion of oral history in Jordan. Archives de la recherche & Phonothèque. Consulté le 25 juillet 2024 à l’adresse

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