The snippets of StoryCorps sessions aired on NPR’s Morning Edition Friday drive-time radio show have coaxed smiles, chills and tears from many a commuter. Known for its moving personal histories, StoryCorps has conducted tens of thousands of interviews with everyday Americans for more than 11 years.
A StoryCorps initiative called OutLoud focusing on the lives of LGBTQ Americans will come to Kansas City in June. Check it out to see whether you might want to participate.
In prehistory, all human stories were transmitted orally, from person to person. Even after the development of writing systems, regular people continued to be illiterate for centuries. Oral histories have helped bind generations, communities and cultures together for large spans of time.
In the modern age, when most of us can read and write, we take for granted that someone, somewhere is documenting everything worth remembering. But what if they aren’t? What if it’s up to us to record and share our most personal histories for posterity?
Founded in 2003 by radio producer Dave Isay, StoryCorps is a nonprofit organization that records, preserves and shares stories of Americans. The usual process of story collection involves two people who have some sort of relationship to each other. A trained facilitator guides the pair through a 40-minute interview process. Afterward, the participants receive a CD of the session, the audio is archived with the Library of Congress, and portions of selected interviews may be broadcast on NPR’s Morning Edition.
StoryCorps has recorded interviews from every state, the District of Columbia, and some U.S. territories. Participants may use a stationary StoryBooth, a traveling MobileBooth or other more individualized services. StoryCorps interviews and related media are available at the project’s website, as well as in books, CDs and DVDs. There are also some animated shorts.
StoryCorps has partnered with various groups to focus on specific communities for story collection. One of these initiatives is StoryCorps OutLoud, a three-year project that began June 28, 2014, the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
“The project honors my father,” said Isay, who began the initiative shortly after Richard Isay’s death.
A psychiatrist, Richard Isay was a closeted gay man for many years, but he is credited with helping change his colleagues’ view of homosexuality, from seeing it as a mental illness to realizing that it’s a natural orientation.
In less than a year, StoryCorps OutLoud has collected interviews dealing with LGBTQ struggle, friendship, loss, growing up, coming out, wisdom and family.
The Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America (glama.us) and KCUR 89.3 FM (kcur.org) are partnering to bring StoryCorps OutLoud to Kansas City for interviews June 10-13. If you want to help organizers identify and connect to potential sources for unique perspectives on the LGBTQ experience, go to goo.gl/HfVQ4P to submit an online form.
Pick up the next issue of Camp to learn more about the StoryCorps OutLoud MobileTour stop in Kansas City. We’ll also have updates from GLAMA, which has been collecting local oral histories and two- and three-dimensional artifacts about Kansas City’s LGBTQ past for several years.