“I've lost the flavor and taste and sound of it. I just want to look and listen." – John Steinbeck, in a letter to a friend in 1959.
“StoryCorps is a national initiative to instruct and inspire Americans to record one another’s stories in sound… It has the potential to become one of the largest documentary oral history projects ever donated to the Library of Congress, and it will be one of the first “born-digital” collections to come to the American Folklife Center.” Press release from The Library of Congress.
In 1960, John Steinbeck, wanting to see more of the United States, set out on a tour of the country. He had a special cabin mounted on the back of his truck. In went his needs and Charley, his beloved poodle. 10,000 miles later, Steinbeck wrote about his experiences in Travels With Charley.
Some 45 years later, David Isay started something similar. He founded StoryCorps, an ambitious oral history project that “seeks out ordinary Americans, the people who rarely make it into the pages of history textbooks.”
The effort began last May when two MobileBooths toured the country and recorded “the stories of everyday Americans.” The tour continues with another cross-country trek to more towns and cities.
I had heard about this project before but learned more about it this weekend. Having just finished a Saturday morning session at the Library of Congress’ microfilm reading room, I walked out of the Madison Building and headed towards my car. There at the corner of Independence Avenue and Second Street I saw a small travel trailer. On the side were the words StoryCorps.
I walked up and met Valda and Judy, two very friendly people who work for the American Folklife Center. They were passing out literature about the StoryCorps project and telling curious passerbys more about the on-going effort. I learned from Valda that the American Folklife Center will maintain the recordings. We agreed the project is a wonderful thing and that our senior citizens would especially love and appreciate having someone ask them to tell their stories.