An organization called LEARN NC has a wonderful web page authored by director Kathryn Walbert about the importance of oral history in our society.
She points out that there’s likely to be far more documentation surrounding the lives of well-known people than your average Joe. Reconstructing what daily life is like for most people would be difficult without the spoken word.
She also raises the issue of how technology we use now will affect the ability of historians in the future to collect information. Letters and diaries have been replaced with email and Instagram. She contends that without oral history, much of the personal history of the late 20th and 21st centuries would be lost to future historians.
Oral history, Walbert says, also takes a more personal turn than historic information mined from others sources. The example she uses is that a news article or speech might embody information about a person, but talking to that person about his or her hopes, aspirations, family history and disappointments would provide an altogether different perspective.
Oral history predates the written word, and hearing people’s stories in their own voices adds to the richness.
Area residents now have the opportunity to contribute to oral history with their own stories, thanks to a nonprofit named StoryCorps. StoryCorps is inviting people to come to its mobile StoryBooth at American Tobacco until May 16 to share details of their lives. It encourages people who want to tell their stories to bring a friend or family member to interview them.
The interviews will be recorded on a CD and preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
This is a way to provide generations to come with information about what we love, what holds meaning for us, what we find interesting, what our families are like, what issues divide us and challenge us, what makes us laugh.
The first two participants at the mobile recording booth when it opened on Thursday were Tim Duffy and Captain Luke Mayer. Duffy is co-founder of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, which helps preserve traditional music. Captain Luke is one of the artists with whom the foundation has worked. The two talked about how they met and their friendship. Captain Luke sang. It’s a gift to future generations to have information about what Duffy’s organization does, to hear how a bond was formed and to listen to Captain Luke sing.
As Eliza Bettinger of StoryCorps noted, everybody has a story worth sharing. Don’t miss this opportunity to tell yours.