Friday, November 08, 2013

Do Your StoryCorps Tribute!

StoryCorps is celebrating ten years of giving average Americans the chance to make an oral recording of memories or experiences that will literally go down in history. 
with facilitator Mayra Sierra at the StoryCorps mobile booth

After two people talk in a mobile recording booth, the recording is sent to the Library of Congress, and the pair are given a CD of their conversation.

My friend Sandy convinced me to go with her to downtown Los Angeles to record a tribute to my mother, Evelyn Frances Gustafson Eggebroten, who died in 2008.

StoryCorps seeks to record voices from many walks of life, including:
  • Military voices
  • Public school teachers, both urban and rural
  • People facing serious illnesses
  • People with memory loss
  • People affected by the September 11 tragedies
  • African-Americans
  • Latino-Americans
  • Alaskans
Because my mother suffered from Alzheimer's Disease, I checked "Memory Loss Initiative" as the type of recording I wanted to make. 

Sandy is a big fan of StoryCorps, which she listens to on National Public Radio, as do I.  

David Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, was signing his new book Ties That Bind at a local bookstore earlier this week, so Sandy went and had the opportunity to speak with him.  Then she checked the online waitlist and noticed that there was an open hour in the appointments for Friday; she called a friend of ours who couldn't take time off from work, and then she invited me.

Thus we showed up at 10:30 am near the Science Museum and the African-American Museum at Jefferson and Figueroa for our interview.

Our facilitator was Mayra Sierra, who earned an MA in Museum Studies at JFK University in Berkeley, CA.  Her thesis was titled "The Use of Oral History in Engaging Underserved Communities in Museums," and her focus was the Japanese-American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles.

Mayra said that so far there have been 80,000 participants in StoryCorps recording 50,000 stories.

There are permanent recording booths in Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco, as well as a few mobile booths that traverse the nation recording local populations.

The booth we recorded in had previously been in Rapid City, South Dakota, and will move to Thousand Oaks, California, and then to Tampa, Florida.  

The most heart-stirring recordings (about 1%) are broadcast via NPR and other media, but the purpose is simply to record lives and to improve listening and group listening skills.

Mayra had recorded an interview with her own mother here in Los Angeles earlier this summer.  She worked at StoryCorps headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, before starting road trips.  She spent two months in Yakima, Washington.

Sandy asked wonderful questions, and I did my best to answer them.  It's hard to remember the important things you want to say in the allotted time of 40 minutes.  
Left to right: Anne, Sandy, and Mayra

I want to encourage everyone to contribute your own story to the Library of Congress by visiting the StoryCorps mobile booth when it comes near you.  Or travel to one of the three permanent locations.  

You can ask a family member to interview you, or you can interview a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or friend.  

If you can't get to one of the locations, you can still interview an elder and record it yourself, or get someone to record you asking questions from your mother or father.

You can interview an older family member and write down all his or her answers.  You can make a timeline of your own life or of major events in the life together of your family.

You can start a blog focused on your senior relative, or you can outline his or her life.

And yes, you can put together a book about your parents or grandparents.

The main thing is to create a gift to future family members and to historians.  

Don't let a life slip away leaving no trace of the person's thoughts and experiences.

I never met two of my grandparents (except as a toddler), and I would dearly love to have a few pages of their words written down or ten minutes of their voices recorded.  My great-grandparents are even more distant from my reach, and I regret that.

For more photos of our StoryCorps experience, see:

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