My Transcribing Experience

After hearing Alice say she transcribed her interview in a mere 30 minutes, I was confident the transcription process would be a breeze and go by quickly.  However, I encountered difficulties more than once, and the project took considerably longer than half an hour.  I downloaded the Sony software and tested it out, but found it did not help me particularly much in the area where I ended up having the most trouble.  I encountered several moments in which either Lloyd or Shirley Wallace would say something I simply could not understand.  This was largely due to their pronounced accents.  Although I could understand most of what they said, and the index created by the previous researcher helped to clarify points of which I was unsure, there were nevertheless a handful of occasions in which individual words or short phrases remained unintelligible to me.  I listened to these bits slowed down with the software, but the only result was that I heard the same unintelligible sounds more slowly.  Rather than attempting to write down what I imagined I heard, I wrote “[unintelligible]” at these moments in my transcript, usually offering a possible interpretation in parentheses next to these brackets.  I felt bad each time I had to do this, feeling I had somehow failed my past researchers for being unable to adequately transcribe their work, and that I had let down future researchers who may look to my inaccurate transcript in the future.  Therefore, I hope my compromise to offer parenthetical possibilities for what these garbled words might be may allow other researchers to understand the speaker as best they can.

Overall, the actual information conveyed in my segment of the interview was fairly interesting.  It recounted how the residents of a town called Magruder had been ousted from their homes by land developers.  Many moved north, but many also remained in the area, moving to the town of Grove, where the Wallaces went.  The Wallaces also talk about the gradual process of the integration of schools, stating that, for years, most black students chose to continue attending Bruton Heights, both because they took pride in the institution, and because, in many respects, Bruton Heights’ facilities were newer and nicer than that of the white / later integrated school, James Blair.  The Wallaces also recounted how students from Matthew Whaley had visited their school on occasion, and how students from William and Mary had used their science lab facilities when the College lab was damaged in a fire.


The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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