At StoryCorps, we talk about “the archive” a lot. There are 55,000 plus interviews in “the archive.” We promise our participants that we’ll keep interviews in our “archive.” We send those same interviews to the American Folklife Center to form an “archive” of voices to be preserved for generations to come. So, seriously…what exactly IS an archive anyway?

Well lucky for us, the Recording & Archive (R&A) department here at StoryCorps turned October–which, as we’re sure you all know, is National Archives Month–into “Archtoberfest!” All month long, the R&A department has been educating our staff about the depth of our collection and bringing in some fantastic guests to provide context about the larger world of archives. Want some highlights of the fun we’ve been having? We thought you might…

archtoberfesttitle (Illustration By Kevina Tidwell)

Listening Lunches

At our offices, we have a long-standing tradition of what we call “listening lunches.” We join together to listen to a full-length interview, or a few extended segments from interviews that have not been broadcast. Listening lunches remind us of the tremendous riches we can find in our collection, and allows us to take time out of our busy schedules to do what we believe in most: listen. This month, R&A’s fabulous interns Kat Phillips and Kevina Tidwell made the selections. Kat curated a program with three different extended clips about the impact of gentrification–from San Francisco’s Mission District, to the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago, and finally to Charleston, SC. Kevina presented a selection of musical clips which included stories from gospel singers in Nashville to a jazz pianist from Harlem.

Kat Phillips presenting her listening lunch (photo by Natalia Fidelholtz)

Kat Phillips presenting her listening lunch (photo by Natalia Fidelholtz)

Special Archtoberfest Guests

A few months ago, we wrote about our great archival partnership with the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center. In addition to joining the Schomburg’s open house earlier this month, we were thrilled to host Steven Fullwood on October 17th for more Archtoberfest activities. He brought an incredible selection of zines, newspapers, leaflets, poetry chapbooks, and funeral programs from the In the Life Archive for us to check out. In his talk, Steven highlighted key collections they hold and reminded us of the importance of making archives available locally to the communities that created and donated the materials.

We also invited representatives of other organizations from our 80 Hanson Office Building to for a panel discussion about their own archive work. Yvonne Ng from WITNESS, Richard Goldstein from BOMB! Magazine, and Michael Katchen from the Franklin Furnace Archive discussed their collections, their initiatives to provide access to those collections (or, in Witness’ case, to inspire communities to create their own archives), as well as the challenges that each of these organizations face.

Left to Right: Michael Katchen and Yvonne Ng.

Left to Right: Michael Katchen and Yvonne Ng.

The Summit

Finally, we held a day-long summit entitled “Oral Histories Online: Ethics, Legality, and Opportunity” to discuss the future of our archive. We were honored to host Bertram Lyons from the American Folklife Center and AVPreserve, Doug Boyd of the Nunn Center at University of Kentucky, and John Neuenschwander, who quite literally wrote the book on legal issues and oral history. We covered a broad range of issues that many archives are struggling with, and emerged from the intense day of conversation energized and excited to move forward with new ideas for the future.

 Oral Histories Online participants: l to r Dean Haddock, Tamara Thompson, Donna Galeno, Virginia Millington, Robin Sparkman, Doug Boyd, Natalia Fidelholtz, Bert Lyons (photo by Mike Cades)


Oral Histories Online participants: l to r Dean Haddock, Tamara Thompson, Donna Galeno, Virginia Millington, Robin Sparkman, Doug Boyd, Natalia Fidelholtz, Bert Lyons (photo by Mike Cades)

As you can imagine, these highlights were just the tip of the archive-iceberg! We also had scavenger hunts through our database, refresher trainings, all manner of snacks, and so much more for StoryCorps’ Archtoberfest!

We hope we inspired you to dig into your old photos & recordings, discover your own family’s oral history, and to think about what you can do to help bring archives to life! After all, EVERY month should be archives month!

Thanks to Talya Cooper, StoryCorps’ Archive Manager, for sharing!


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