By Grace Huseth
Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps, believes everyone has a unique story and that we should live on in stories long after we are gone. Today, StoryCorps records oral histories from everyday people thoroughout America. The national project continues in Atlanta with a special StoryBooth recording studio at the Atlanta History Center to preserve stories from our great city.
“The StoryCorps process is simply a 40-minute conversation between two people who know each other who talk about something that’s important to them,” said Daniel Horowitz, regional manager of StoryCorps Atlanta.
The recording studio is inside the library at the Atlanta History Center with dim lighting and books to muffle the sound.
“We try to get the recording studio to feel like it’s late at night around the kitchen table. It’s a time and space where you have nothing else going on, you are not going to be interrupted, and you can have that kind of conversation,” Horowitz said.
Horowitz said StoryCorps has many different methods to record stories in addition to the StoryBooth. StoryCorps Atlanta set up field recording days to collect stories from specific communities in Atlanta and have a StoryCorps app for personal recording. With these resources, StoryCorps can capture conversations that reflect all of Atlanta.
“We think about what the archive needs. The archive has to be reflective of a community, so half of our interviews need to come from community outreach,” Horowitz said.
Out of the 600-plus interviews recorded at the booth each year, a great majority are from community outreach. One of StoryCorps’ goals for 2016 is to engage the refugee community and continue the “Historias” and “Griot” initiatives, collecting Hispanic and African-American experiences.
“A big piece of outreach is talking to folks and convincing them that the story they have is worth other people’s time,” Horowitz commented. “Once they are convinced, they are happy to share. It’s usually the folks who say, ‘I didn’t do anything,’ that are the really interesting ones.’”
This year, StoryCorps has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control to collect stories from the more than 2,000 full-time employees who responded to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. StoryCorps seeks to archive the personal connection each specialist had to Ebola, with less emphasis on recording scientific research.
All interviewees are encouraged to sign the general release form so that their stories can be shared on the radio. StoryCorps’ partnership with public radio station WABE allows the broadcasts.
“We tell people your chance of getting on the radio is not very high,” Horowtiz said. “Less than 1 percent of all stories go on NPR, with a bit higher going on locally. But I guarantee that if you sign the general release form you will be in multiple archives around the country.”