StoryCorps: Preserving Our Oral Histories

Do you love hearing your grandparents tell the stories of their lives? Preserving that kind of historical data is the mission of StoryCorps which has conducted and archived more than 5,000 oral histories. The organization is building recording studios across the country and offers two permanent locations in New York City called StoryBooths and two traveling studios called MobileBooths.

“It’s an extraordinary value because only a $10 donation is asked,” said writer Linda Altoonian. You choose an interview partner, make a reservation online, or call 800-850-4406, develop a list of questions, and arrive ten minutes before the scheduled time to conduct the interview.

On Feb. 10th StoryCorps’ flagship booth in Grand Central Terminal was dedicated to Danny and Annie Perasa. The national partners are National Public Radio (NPR) and the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. The national MobileBooth tour is supported by Saturn and NPR among others. According to their website, StoryCorps mission is to instruct and inspire people to record one another’s stories in sound. “Facilitators are the face of StoryCorps,” the website reads.

They introduce the public to the concept, assist participants with basic interview techniques, monitor and facilitate the conversation between the interviewer and storyteller, follow-up with participants, catalogue interviews for the Library of Congress, attend weekly meetings, edit selected tapes from interviews to be considered for broadcast, and are the ambassadors of StoryCorps while traveling the country on the MobileBooths.

Right now the company is hiring facilitators, interns, and an operations manager. Comprehensive training is provided so reliability, sensitivity, and enthusiasm are more important than related prior experience or familiarity with recording equipment according to the job description for facilitators.

According to staff facilitators are not interviewers – friends or family members of the storytellers conduct the interviews. Facilitators must commit to two full day shifts a week often including a weekend shift. The pay rate is $14 per hour. StoryCorps was created by award-winning radio documentary producer and MacArthur Grant recipient Dave Isay. “I’m particularly excited about the stops on the tour especially New Orleans where we expect to hear some remarkable stories from survivors of Katrina,” he said.

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