One of The University of Arizona Poetry Center's most valuable library holdings is its audio/video collection. voca, the Center's online Audio Video Library, documents the Center's nationally distinguished Reading Series. These recordings - the oldest of which date from the early 1960s - are exclusive to The University of Arizona Poetry Center and provide an extensive and ongoing record of the American poetry scene, as well as an historical record of one of the nation's earliest and longest-running poetry reading series. Since early 2000 the Poetry Center has worked with an audio engineer and videographer to digitize the physical recordings. Digitization of the entire collection is scheduled for completion within the next few years.
In 2006, The University of Arizona's College of Humanities Instructional Computing Team, along with developer Jesse Roberts, began work on a multimedia archival storage and retrieval system that would allow on-site Poetry Center patrons to access this growing digital archive via desktop computers. This system, initially called the Poetry Audio/Video Library (Poetry AVL), was released at the end of its first major development cycle in the fall of 2007. Since that date, all readings at the Poetry Center have been recorded directly in digital format, enhanced through a routine post-production process, and immediately integrated into the system.
In 2010, the Poetry Center and members of the College of Humanities Technology Team received a National Endowment for the Humanities Level II start-up grant to make the Poetry AVL available to Internet users and enhance the information contained about the reading artifacts in the collection. With the support of the NEH grant, the development of the online resource, renamed voca, was implemented in three phases: 1) implement a secure, Internet-accessible architecture (v2.0); 2) integrate an enhanced collection of metadata to increase the breadth and depth of information contained with the application (v2.1); and 3) develop a Knowledge and Feedback module (v2.2) allowing registered users of the application to leave information and comments associated with the artifacts in the collection.
voca v2.0, released in November 2010, makes the application available over the Internet, implements a newly redesigned user interface, and increases the amount of information displayed for each reading in the collection. voca v2.1, released in August 2011, enhances the application from both scholarly and contextual points of view by adding new data elements to the collection that describe the individual authors and their recorded work. Features include an advanced search tool and detailed information on individual works read at the Poetry Center, such as which poems have never been published, or have evolved from their original published state. This enhanced information is available in full for some readings at the time of the initial release, and is added for others in an ongoing research process.
voca v2.2, also released in August 2011, incorporates a Knowledge and Feedback module allowing users of the application to contribute to the scholarly and historical value of the resource through social tagging and user comments. Authors, Poetry Center staff, scholars, and members of the public are invited to register with the site and share their knowledge about the poets and the readings, creating a richer and more valuable resource.
Based on the wishes of the poets or their estates, not every recording in the collection is available over the Internet; all digitized recordings are available on-site at the Poetry Center.
Future iterations of voca are planned, and we welcome your suggestions about what features you would like to see. Please share your comments and feedback with us here.