The Smithsonian Speech Synthesis History Project, conducted by H. David Maxey from 1986 through 2002, created a collection of archival materials documenting the history and development of speech synthesis technology. Maxey collaborated with Dr. Bernard Finn, Elliot Sivowitch and Harold Wallace of the National Museum of American History's Division of Information, Technology, and Society.
Scope and Contents:
The collection documents a project done by H. David Maxey in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution. The collection consists of administrative files containing correspondence, project reports, and other infomation about the Smithsonian Speech Synthesis History Project. The project files, arranged geographically and alphabetically contains information about specific speech synthesis projects and inventions. The reprints series consists of reprints of articles which Maxey collected and organized separately. This series is organized both numerically and alphabetically. The audiovisual materials contain the recordings of talks, meetings, and samples of speech synthesis described in the projects outlined in the project files.
The original SSSHP numbers assigned by Dave Maxey are included in portions of the Container List. They are the basis for the organization of Maxey's original index to and description of the collection. Maxey assigned the numbers sequentially in the order he received each numbered item.
The collection is arranged into four series.
Series 1, Administrative Files,1986-2002
Series 2, Project Files, 1939-1999
Series 3, Reprints, 1939-1999
Series 4: Audiovisual Materials,1939-1999
Subseries 1, ¼" Open Reel Audiotape
Subseries 2, Audiocassettes
Subseries 3, Miscellaneous
Subseries 4, Reference and Protection Audiotapes and CDs
Biographical / Historical:
The Smithsonian Speech Synthesis History Project, conducted by H. David Maxey from 1986 through 2002, created a collection of archival materials including sound recordings documenting the history and development of speech synthesis technology. Maxey collaborated with Dr. Bernard Finn of the National Museum of American History's Division of Information, Technology, and Society. Elliot Sivowitch and Harold Wallace of the same division served as Smithsonian liaisons with the project.
"Speech synthesis technology" refers to the results of a long, evolutionary process in which researchers learned to create artificial sounds that people would interpret as speech. As early as the eighteenth century scientists were inventing mechanical machines to create sounds similar to human speech. Later electronics led to additional developments, The Voder was one of the earliest examples which was demonstrated to wide acclaim at the 1939 New York World's Fair. However, it was the widespread use of computers that led to the greatest progress in the field of speech synthesis.
Speech synthesis is the process by which a computer speaks. By contrast, speech recognition is when a computer can interpret spoken language. The application of both of these capabilities has been important for creating assistive computer technology for the visually impaired (speech recognition) and for individuals unable to speak (speech synthesis).
Among the leading researchers and organizations involved with the development of speech synthesis technologies are the Anerican Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), Bell Telephone Laboratories, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dennis H. Klatt, and Ray Kurzweil.
Today speech synthesis is a common feature of daily life from the cultured voice on the GPS saying exactly which road to take to making a train reservation on the telephone. However, many speech synthesis developers continue to explore and design methods to make the speech sound less mechanical, with the ultimate challenge being natural sounding speech that shows emotion.
Dave Maxey's dedication to the project, with support from members of the staff of the National Museum of American History, has ensured the preservation of materials documenting the early history of electronic and computer engineered synthetic speech.
Artifacts related to this collection are in the Division of Work & Industry, Electricity Collections.
The collection was created for the Smithsonian Institution from 1986-2002 by Dave Maxey in collaboration with Dr. Bernard Finn of the National Museum of American History's Division of Information, Technology, and Society, assisted by Elliot Sivowitch and Harold Wallace of the same division.
Collection is open for research. Only reference copies of audiovisual materials may be used.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
The series consists of files documenting Amos's residencies and fellowships at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation in Italy, and the American Academy in Rome; memberships with the College Art Association, Guerrilla Girls, National Academy of Design, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and Women's Caucus for Art; and presentations at conferences, symposiums, workshops, and as a visiting artist. An electronic diskette and one electronic disc contain material regarding other artists. Amos curated a number of exhibitions including Progressions: A Cultural Legacy (1986), also co-curated by Julia Hotton and Vivian Browne, Resisting Categories: Finding Common Ground, and Resisting Categories: Finding Common Ground. Also included are artist files, curating files, jury and panelist files, and files detailing her travels to Cuba, Brazil, German, Italy, Mexico, and South Africa.
The files are arranged alphabetically by file type, then alphabetically within each type. Exhibitions are arranged in rough chronological order by exhibition date.
Material regarding the Guerrilla Girls is access restricted; written permission is required. Contact Reference Services for more information. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Researchers interested in accessing born-digital records or audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.
Emma Amos papers, circa 1900-2019. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.