Everybody has a story. We listen to stories every day, from our family, co-workers, friends, even strangers. We tell stories every day. There is a project called Story Corps that seeks to record as many stories as they can, to preserve the essence of our life in the United States for future generations.
I listen to National Public Radio’s (NPR) Morning Edition just about every morning. Every Friday they run Story Corps , recordings made by ordinary people. These stories are stored at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress. It differs from some other oral history projects, including those by the WPA in the 1930’s, in that each is an interview instead of just one person speaking. The stories are recorded at booths like the one pictured above and in mobile studios.
Most of the time the interviewer and storyteller are family members. The stories are only a couple of minutes long. Some are funny, some are historical, and some are heartbreaking. Some examples- click the highlighted text to listen:
- Judge Olly Neal, retired appellate judge of the Arkansas Court of Appeals, telling his daughter Karama how a stolen book and a librarian changed his life. Hear Judge Neal’s story – Judge Olly Neal and his daughter Karama
- A heartbreaker – John Vigiano talks with his wife Jan about losing their sons on 9/11. Hear his story here – John Vigiano and his wife Jan
- Some famous people have also recorded their thoughts on Story Corps. One of my favorite authors, Studs Terkel, asks What has happened to the human voice?: click to hear Studs Terkel, who died on October 31, 2008
I think of all these stories going into a “vault” – when will their voices be heard again?
Every family has their oral histories. I am lucky that my father has written down some of his stories of his growing up years on the farm during and after the depression. My mother tells stories of our family when all of us kids were young, and her delight in her home and children. These stories are priceless gifts. I hope you have a story teller and a story keeper in your family. Maybe you are the storyteller or storykeeper.
Join StoryCorps on the day after Thanksgving for the National Day of Listening, meant to celebrate and document the stories, memories, and history of your family, friends, and community. This year, plan to sit down with your loved ones on that day to ask the questions that matter, and record your conversations to enjoy for years to come. Click here for details and ideas for recording your own history.
Log onto the Story Corps site, listen to some stories, subscribe to their podcast. Check out their web site for booth and recording locations – you may have an opportunity to be involved in this important project. And if you do, I’ll be listening.