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Innovative oral history project comes to Tampa Bay

Mark Parker

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The StoryCorps Mobile Tour is recording Tampa Bay residents' life stories from Jan. 5 through Feb. 14. Photo courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/StoryCorps

Tampa Bay residents now have an opportunity to share meaningful life stories with their fellow Americans and have them preserved in the Library of Congress for generations to come.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, preserving and sharing personal stories of people from all walks of life. For 17 years, the Story Corps Mobile Tour has canvassed the country, facilitating conversations between people who know and care about each other. WUSF Media has partnered with StoryCorps to record Tampa Bay residents through in-person and virtual interviews from Jan. 5 through Feb. 14.

According to its press release, a StoryCorps interview consists of two people recording an intimate and meaningful conversation with one another. The discussions center around who each is as a person, what they have learned in life and how they want the world to remember them. The program was founded in 2003 by award-winning documentary producer and MacArthur Fellow Dave Isay to “create a world where we listen closely to each other and recognize the beauty, grace and poetry in the lives and stories we find all around us.”

“StoryCorps tells an authentic American story,” said Isay in the release. “That we are a people defined by small acts of courage, kindness and heroism.

“Each interview reminds people that their lives matter and will not be forgotten.”

A trained StoryCorps facilitator helps guide the interview, and afterward, participants receive a digital copy of the interview to keep and share. With the participant’s permission, a second copy of the recording is also preserved at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress. This preservation allows future generations unique insight into what life was like for their fellow Americans during a particular era.

StoryCorps is partnering with National Public Radio affiliate WUSF for its Tampa run. WUSF will broadcast various local interviews and create special programming around the project. People from around the world may hear excerpts of local stories through the project’s weekly NPR broadcasts, animated shorts, digital platforms and books.

In the release, WUSF General Manager JoAnn Urofsky said her organization is eager to participate in its listeners’ lives. She said the project helps provide the community with a gathering place to share each other’s stories.

“Our region is full of incredible stories, and each story begins with one person,” said Urofsky. “With StoryCorps, we continue our mission to be where our audience is and engage people in the community wherever we can.”

Contributors have the option of recording in-person or through StoryCorps’ Virtual Recording Booth. The virtual recording booth is a video-conferencing platform that users can access remotely through any internet-connected device.

Isay said the project takes on even greater importance in the age of Covid.

“During this pandemic, the value of preserving these stories and of strengthening connections between people who may feel physically isolated is more important than ever.”

In addition to its partners at NPR and WUSF Media, StoryCorps is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American People. For more information on the project, including safety precautions for in-person recording, visit storycorps.org. Contributors can also make reservations by calling StoryCorps’ 24-hour reservation line at 1-800-850-4406.

 

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