WASHINGTON – Everyone has a story,but not everyone's story is heard.
That will change over the next year for about 2,500 people as two silver trailers outfitted with digital recording studios crisscross the country.
“The idea is simple,” said David Isay,an award-winning broadcaster who is the project's founder. People can bring friends or loved ones into the mobile booths and interview each other in 40-minute sessions that may end up in the Library of Congress.
The project is called StoryCorps,and many of the stories may also air on National Public Radio.
“This is going to be a journey into the soul of America,” said National Public Radio President Kevin Klose at a press conference Thursday to unveil the project.
StoryCorps,the largest oral history project ever,began in October 2003 when a stationary recording booth was placed at Grand Central Station in New York and 2,327 stories were recorded.
In addition to dreaming up StoryCorps,Isay is the director of Sound Portraits Productions,the company responsible for producing the audio side of the project.
This oral narrative project is a modern adaptation of past projects,such as the Federal Writer's Project in the 1930s and 1940s,that produced written profiles now in the Library of Congress.
The two recording booths will be stationed at the Library of Congress until May 28. Then they will split up for cross-country journeys – one will go east,the other west – stopping in 25 cities for two to three weeks at a time over the next six months.
A facilitator will help people make the recordings. Participants get to keep a copy and will have the option to sign a release form to allow their recording into the archives at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress for permanent preservation.
The project is costly,at nearly $200 per session,but Isay said a price cannot be placed on the history that will be collected. Participants are asked to give a $10 donation but donations are optional,so most of the cost falls on the sponsors – Saturn,National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Isay,who is a MacArthur Fellow,said the “magical space” inside the trailer gives people the freedom to sit down with someone important in their lives and ask them the questions they have always wanted to know.
Washington resident Richard Graham,84,shared that magical space with his sister,Sue Mingus. Graham called the experience “enjoyable.” Mingus,75,lives in New York and spends most of her time preserving the legend of her late husband,jazz musician Charles Mingus.
“We've both had interesting lives,so we discussed whether or not the world was a better place because were in it,” said Graham,a former Peace Corps volunteer and a commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the 1960s.
NPR is partnering with StoryCorps to play excerpts of the recordings on local stations across the nation as well as on its national show,“Morning Edition.” Klose said the partnership will give listeners a glimpse into the lives of fellow citizens.
“Since ‘Morning Edition' has over 13 million listeners nationwide,we are a magnet for listenership,” Klose said. “We are community-based with local voices and local hosts. Naturally,StoryCorps fits right in there.”
“Morning Edition” host,Steve Inskeep agreed,saying the show has “one of the last really big broadcast audiences left,” so it is a great place for StoryCorps to share recordings with the nation.
Isay said he hopes participants get a sense of completion and fulfillment from recording their own oral histories.
“I think it's going to start a revolution in this country,” Isay said. “I think that everybody wants to feel that their short time on earth matters.”
For more information about StoryCorps,visit http://www.storycorps.net