Helping People Grow

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Stories from 20 Years of Extraordinary Museums & Libraries

Today our partners at the Institute of Museum and Library Services announced winners for the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. We Are StoryCorps is featuring guest bloggers from our Custom Services department to talk about their experiences with this amazing institution.

“Four years, 50 trips across the country, and nearly 900 interviews recorded.” This is how we could catalogue our relationship with The National Medal for Museum and Library Service. But the most important number to note–the number of lives touched by the libraries and museums we have visited during our travels–is countless.

Raivynn Smith is all smiles as she poses next to her aunt Blossom Smith after completing their StoryCorps interview at Cincinnati Library, a 2013 National Medal Winner.

Raivynn Smith is all smiles as she poses next to her aunt Blossom Smith after completing their StoryCorps interview at Cincinnati Library, a 2013 National Medal Winner.

Each year, our partners at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), awards the annual National Medal to ten museums and libraries that “demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach.” This year, for the 20th anniversary of the National Medal, we had the honor of recording the stories of the people who make these institutions remarkable.

IMLS captured this special moment of First Lady Michelle Obama standing next to two lucky IMLS StoryCorps participants, Tayquan Pomare-Taylor and Carole Charnow (left to right), from Boston's Children Library. Photo credit IMLS.

IMLS captured this special moment of First Lady Michelle Obama standing next to two lucky IMLS StoryCorps participants, Tayquan Pomare-Taylor and Carole Charnow (left to right), from Boston’s Children Library. Photo credit IMLS.

IMLS sent StoryCorps Facilitators high and low to find unsung heroes these institutions–the librarians, tutors, artists, security guards, and so many more. We rolled our recording equipment from big city cultural centers–such as the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx– to small town staples–like the Naturita Community Library in Colorado who serves a population fewer than 500 people. So what do these institutions have in common? It is not just that they are amazing at what they do, but that they constantly defy expectations. For example, Virginia’s Park View High School Library hosts live World Music celebrations–breaking away from the traditional “shhh!” of a library by bringing in joyous noise performed by student bands!

Here are some other story gems that we’ve heard among the gallery walls and library stacks:

“I’m not a nurse, I’m not a teacher but I’m kind of like combination of that. I’m helping people grow.” –Blossom Smith, Librarian, Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

“People like you can never be forgotten, because you helped shape who I am.”–Oscar Mansfield, poet, to his former tutor, Lora Osterloh, Contra Costa County Library

“I know it feels good to make something, so I want to give girls a space and a reason to do that.”–Jillian Hernandez, Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami

Congratulations to this year’s National Medal Winners! We can’t wait to meet you and hear the unique stories that make your communities special. Thank you for the important work you do every day!

2011 National Medal Winner, Peter White Public Library sweetly greets StorCorps and our Facilitators with a tasty surprise.

2011 National Medal Winner, Peter White Public Library sweetly greets StorCorps and our Facilitators with a tasty surprise.

Mobile Lowdown: Durham Edition

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It’s time again for another stop on our nationwide MobileBooth tour–which also means another edition of the Mobile Lowdown! This time around, Jesse Gutierrez (Associate Manager of Mobile Tour) and Diana Velez (Associate Manager of Marketing and Communications) brought in some reinforcements–Mr. Jordan Bullard (Jesse’s friendly, Southern colleague in the Mobile department).

So, as the Mobile Crew kicked off the stop today in Durham, Jordan and Diana took over the blog to give everyone another quick look at one of our many awesome MobileBooth city stops!

Let’s start off with the basics–what’s happening in Durham?

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An early crowd begins to gather at our MobileBooth pre-Opening Day at the American Tobacco Campus! Ten Years ago, the American Tobacco site was simply unused warehouse space. Now the buildings have been refurbished and are filled with businesses. Photo credit Carol Jackson | WUNC.

Opening Day Insider Information:

Diana: “First things first: Captain Luke, brought to us by the Music Maker Relief Foundation, was both the first VIP interview and performer on Opening Day. Captain Luke’s interview partner was Tim Duffy, also from the Music Maker Relief Foundation. Durham has a rich heritage of folk music, which the Music Maker Foundation has been preserving since 1994.”

Tim Duffy (left with guitar) and Captain Luke (right). Photo credit Carol Jackson.

Tim Duffy (left with guitar) and Captain Luke (right). Photo credit Carol Jackson | WUNC.

Jordan: “Our second VIP interview was between Matt Victoriano and Ryan Wetter. Matt and Ryan have a very interesting story about life after being deployed (Iraq and Afghanistan respectively).”

City Highlights:

Diana: “Our MobileBooth will be parked at the historic American Tobacco Historic District, home to the Lucky Strike Tobacco Tower (Don Draper would be jealous), and the Durham Bulls.

Which reminds me, Bull Durham, the MOST* popular sports movie of all time, was shot in Durham at the Historic Durham Athletic Park, home field of the very real Durham Bulls.”

*According to Diana and this random Sports Illustrated Article.

Jordan: “Durham has become a pretty serious foody town. You can basically take a walking food tour across downtown Durham. All of the spots below are within about a 20 minute walk (5 minute bike ride) of each other:

  • Cocao Canela – Mexican inspired coffee hangout

  • Parker & Otis – Biscuits, Gravy, and knick-knacks

  • Full Steam – Microbrewery in Downtown Durham

  • Piedmont Restaurant – Farm-to-table Americana kinda stuff

  • Geer Street Garden – tasty food in an old gas station

  • Cookout – the best fast food drive-through this side of the Mississippi (maybe the world) — multiple locations around Durham

Durham also has local breweries, hipsters galore, and people on bikes. The American Tobacco Trail is great for bikers and joggers. You can catch the trail on the south side of the American Tobacco Campus and follow across all of Durham County.”

Durham sounds both exciting and delicious! We cannot wait to hear what amazing stories our team collects this time around!

Thanks as always to our Mobile Lowdown-ers for all their help!

My StoryBooth, My City: Chicago-Style.

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A travel guide from our Midwest Crew–StoryCorps in Chicago.

Spring is in the air, fellow story-lovers! While that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people (such as allergy sufferers and love-crazed teenagers) we always seem to get the travel bug around this time. Which is why we thought it’s the perfect time for our second installment of our travel-inspired series: “My StoryBooth, My City.”

Last month, we began exploring the stories of our StoryBooth cities as told by the ones who would know best–our local StoryCorps staff. As we huddled near heaters up here in our New York-based offices, Amanda Plumb, Manager of StoryCorps in Atlanta, took us on a virtual tour of her lovely (and warm) Southern city and gave us a peek at what it’s like to collect stories in the ATL.

This month, since Spring seems to have sprung, we believe it is finally safe for us to travel to our StoryBooth location in Chicago, IL without fear of frostbite.

Chicago winter vs. not-winter. You see our point.

Chicago winter (left) vs. Chicago “not-winter” (right). You see our point.

Chicago is a special place to StoryCorps. It was the home-base of famous oral historian and our hero, Studs Terkel, and where our founder, Dave Isay, set the stage for his acclaimed documentary, “Ghetto Life 101.” So we were excited to hear what local facilitator, Andre Perez, had to say about Chicago these days.

Andre Perez (Left) with fellow StoryBooth facilitator Alicia Williams, at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Andre Perez (right) with fellow StoryBooth facilitator, Alicia Williams (left), at the Chicago Cultural Center.

So while we dig into a nice slice deep-dish pizza here, we hope you’ll enjoy our brief travel guide to the Windy City!


Around the StoryBooth:

“Chicago’s Storybooth is located in the historic and beautiful Chicago Cultural Center. While you’re here, you should check out the art exhibits and performances going on. We are a hop, skip, and a jump away from the iconic bean sculpture in Millennium Park and world-class shopping on the magnificent mile.”

Millennium Park.

Millennium Park.

Eating Good in the Chicago Neighborhoods:

“While you could spend days checking out the touristy parts of downtown, I encourage you not to limit yourselves. Our location is close to all major public transportation including the suburban commuter train and city train lines. Especially when it comes to food, the neighborhoods are where it’s at. Enjoy excellent Ethiopian food off the Thorndale red line. If you have access to a car, then take in Indian food on West Devon, Puerto Rican food on West Division Street, or Mexican food on 26th Street or Vegetarian soul food on the Chicago’s south side.

Each neighborhood also has its own unique feel complete with community centers, cultural institutions, and shopping experiences.”

A Day in the Life at the Chicago StoryBooth:

“On recording days, we start our day by opening the booth. We make sure all the equipment is working well and that our supplies are restocked. After I get caffeinated, I call future participants to confirm their appointments and email partner organizations.

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StoryCorps in Chicago’s StoryBooth, located in the Chicago Cultural Center.

When participants come in, we guide them through the process, answering questions along the way. At the end of our recording, we say goodbye to our new friends, and begin the archival process. When the next participant comes in, we start all over. In between recordings you can often find me telling a stranger what StoryCorps is or researching new organizations to partner with.”

Partnership to Note:

“We’ve recently begun partnering with the Trans Oral History Project, a community-driven effort to diversify the range of stories available from within the transgender and gender variant communities. This group is developing a ToolKit for youth leaders and educators to use in teaching about issues impacting the transgender community. This partnership is especially exciting for me because it is by and for the transgender community. We get to work with community leaders who are making change by bringing their truths to LGBTQ young folks around the country.”

A Day In The Life: StoryCorps Facilitators Part III

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Just a couple of months ago, we began our 2014 Mobile tour. A team of facilitators and their fearless Mobile Manager hit the road with open ears and a shiny airstream trailer.

You may remember We Are StoryCorps’ look into some of the lives of our Door-to-Door facilitators, Jill Glaser and Luis Gallo. They taught us a lot about what it is like to hop on a plane, train, or automobile when great stories need to be recorded. Now, we want to look at another side of StoryCorps facilitator life–our Mobile Crew! While our amazing 2014 team is hard at work recording the voices in Huntsville, AL (next stop Durham, NC!), we were able to hit up the dynamic facilitating duo from our previous Mobile tour–Anna Berlanga and Callie Thuma.

Anna (L) and Callie at Cheyenne Frontier Days during a Mobile visit in 2013. Photo by Mike Dougherty

Anna (L) and Callie at Cheyenne Frontier Days during a Mobile visit in 2013. Photo by Mike Dougherty

In Fall of 2013, Anna and Callie hit the road from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Los Angeles, California and many, many places in between. Listening to these two ladies talk about their experiences was so incredible–reminding us how abundant stories are and how everyone has something incredible to share.

Full disclosure: this interview may give you the sudden urge to pack up and travel the country recording stories!

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W.A.S: “What was one of your most interesting experience during your time as a facilitator?”

Callie:“In Cheyenne, WY, two men recorded a full 40 minute interview all about the atlatl, which is an ancient spear-throwing weapon used by our early human ancestors around the globe. Later on, one of the men, Russell Richard, came back by the MobileBooth with atlatls, darts, and a foam ‘coyote’ target. We set up a range outside of the library, and Russ taught us how to launch darts using the atlatl. It was a lot of fun, and also totally unexpected. I never know what I’m going to learn next when I’m facilitating in the Booth.”

Russell Richard coaches Callie on how to throw an atlatl. Photo by Mike Dougherty

Russell Richard coaches Callie on how to throw an atlatl. Photo by Mike Dougherty

W.A.S: “Where was your favorite or most memorable city?”

Anna: “Each city I’ve visited has given me great memories. If I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be Phoenix. I really liked Phoenix because of the people I met. I got to meet many young Latinos. Their presence made me think about my own identity and how I have chosen to express it. It was a real growing experience for me. I always felt fully Hispanic, but I didn’t grow up around a lot of Hispanic peers. I spoke Spanish to my family, never to my friends. Seeing these twenty-somethings who were truly bicultural with their friends and family made me more invested in expressing both sides of my identity. That being said, I loved every city I visited with StoryCorps. I played trivia in Santa Fe, danced in Las Vegas, floated down a river in Boise, rodeo-ed in Cheyenne, and went to free concerts in Yakima.”

W.A.S: “Did you or the team create any favorite driving games on the road?”

Callie: “Aside from holding our breath when we drive through a tunnel, no.”

Anna: “Yeah, we didn’t really create any driving games. But to pass the time, we would stop a lot. Driving from Cheyenne, WY to Yakima, WA, we decided to take the northern route. In so doing, we drove through Yellowstone National Park. We went on a hike, had a picnic and saw thermal springs. On that same drive we stopped in Missoula, MT for lunch, a fair, and a dip in the river. We stopped in Coeur d’Alene, ID and went to a farmers market, and swam in the lake. Having these long stops, getting out of the car, and meaningfully divorcing myself from the drive kept me rested and refreshed.”

Callie and Anna at a geothermal pool in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Mike Dougherty.

Callie and Anna at a geothermal pool in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Mike Dougherty.

W.A.S:What is the best part of the job?”

Callie: “The stories. Getting to travel and see the country is amazing, but the best part is listening to people. The things I hear make me laugh, cry, shake my head in disbelief, and marvel at the complexity of human beings.”

anna_636Anna:“I bet it sounds cliche’, but I love meeting people and hearing their stories. I have said many times before but a common theme is love. People bring grandma in to record her story because they love her. They bring in their spouse to talk about the day they met because they love each other, or they talk about someone who has passed because they love them. Our interviews remind me of the people I love. Once, a mom came in to talk about a son who was murdered and her daughter that committed suicide. It was a really sad story, but it reminded me of a mother’s love, and how much I love my mother. I told the participant that I was going to call my mom immediately. She was comforted to hear that her story could move me to action.”

W.A.S:Is there anything you’ve learned as a facilitator that you did not expect to learn?”

Callie:“I didn’t expect that listening to others would teach me so much about myself. Hearing others’ stories regularly forces me to confront my preconceived notions about people, and that can be incredibly humbling. Listening allows me to see humanity in a different light. It’s a gift to be present with people in that way.”

 

Interested in becoming a StoryCorps facilitator? We are accepting applications for Bilingual Facilitators for our Mobile team as well as at our Atlanta and San Francisco StoryBooth locations.CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Around the Office: The Interns of StoryCorps!

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Upon entering the hallowed halls of our dear StoryCorps offices (located in Fort Greene, Brooklyn) you will notice a lot of things going on. You’ll notice an array of audio cds, audio equipment, and even an assortment of StoryCorps orange decoratively placed here and there. However, what you probably will notice the most is the people–our dedicated staff whose passion to ensure that every voice matters and every story is heard.

Among this wonderful, hectic StoryCorps family of ours are the brave interns who embrace this unique lifestyle for months as part of the internship program. Our interns are rockstars–the most dedicated kind and on behalf of the entire staff, we are intern-ally grateful (see what we did there?).

We stopped by a few of their desks this week and asked them more about their time at StoryCorps. Here’s what they had to say:

 

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“My favorite thing about StoryCorps’ internship program has been the opportunity to integrate my passion for creative expression and social justice into practice in support of StoryCorpsU. I have learned more about the challenges and rewards of implementing an experiential youth development curriculum within the context of mainstream pedagogy that focuses on standardized measures of educational outcomes. It was inspiring to be surrounded by a community of people in the office every day that is so sincerely driven towards making the impact they believe in.”

–Kelly Adams, Education

 
 
 

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“I really have enjoyed the professional development sessions that StoryCorps offers as well as the opportunity to meet and hear stories from our StoryCorpsU students.”

–Mirielle Clifford, Education

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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“What I was happiest to find at StoryCorps is the degree to which people as individuals are the focus of what we do. It seems so basic, but I’ve learned that when everyone communicates as genuinely as they can, with respect and playfulness, ideas spread and come to fruition so much more easily.”

–Devon Olson, Recording & Archive

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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“I’ve learned that the story is powerful. It’s incredible what people are willing to share about their lives when given the opportunity.”

–Marion Rice, StoryCorps Legacy

 
 
 
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“As the Community Engagement intern, I’ve been helping with both the Military Voices Initiative (MVI) and the soon-to-be launched OutLoud initiative. In the past, I didn’t know much about the issues facing either community, but by listening to participant interviews and conducting further research, this internship has allowed me to gain some valuable insight into each community.”

–Cherie Buenaflor, Community Engagement (CE)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thanks to Cherie, Devon, Kelly, Marion, and Mirielle for talking to us as well as the entire Intern Team!

Our Brooklyn Intern Staff for Winter/Spring 2014! We also have two amazing interns for our StoryBooth locations in Atlanta and San Francisco not pictured.

Our Brooklyn Intern Staff for Winter/Spring 2014! We also have two amazing interns for our StoryBooth locations in Atlanta and San Francisco not pictured.

If you are interested in being a part of the StoryCorps Internship Program, you are in luck! We are currently accepting applications for our Summer/Fall 2014 Session. CLICK HERE for more information.

8 Stories of Everyday Leading Ladies

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March is Women’s History Month!

For your listening pleasure, we rounded up a collection of stories from our archive that feature ladies who take the lead, charge ahead, and make a difference in both their lives and others. We hope these stories of powerhouse females remind you that inspiring women are kicking butt not just in March, but all year long!

So grab your headphones and enjoy 8 Stories of Everyday Leading Ladies…

1.) Seniesa Estrada

17-year-old amateur boxing champion Seniesa Estrada talks to her father and coach, Joe Estrada, about how she got started in the sport.

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2.) Carrie Conley

Jerry Johnson interviews his mother, Carrie Conley, about raising six children as a single mother.

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3.) Tia Smallwood

Tia Smallwood tells her daughter, Christine, about becoming a business woman in the 1970s.

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4.) Panchita Espitia

Bishop Ricardo Ramirez remembers his grandmother Francisca “Panchita” Espitia.

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5.) Dee Dickson

Dee Dickson remembers trying to get a job as a shipyard electrician in the 1970s.

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6.) Lourdes Villanueva

Lourdes Villanueva tells her son Roger about growing up in a family of migrant workers.

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7.) Dorothy Kelley

Joyce Butler remembers her mother, Dorothy Kelley, who worked in a shipyard during World War II, in an interview with her daughter, Stephanie.

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8.) Marilyn Gonzalez and Jessica Pedraza

Sergeant Marilyn Gonzalez and her daughter Specialist Jessica Pedraza remember deploying together to Iraq in 2010.

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Mobile Lowdown: Huntsville Edition

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Jesse Gutierrez (Associate Manager of Mobile Tour) and Diana Velez (Associate Manager of Marketing and Communications) are back for a second installment of The Mobile Lowdown!

Last month StoryCorps’ Mobile Tour parked at Gainesville, FL, and Diana and Jesse were nice enough to give us all the details. Now, we’re hitting the road once again to Huntsville, Alabama.

Today (March 13th) happens to be Opening Day for Huntsville, so it is the perfect time for Jesse and Diana to do their thing once again and give us the official Mobile Lowdown: Huntsville Edition.

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Diana and Jesse in Spaaaace. Photo credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (modified with layered image; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/).

Jesse, Diana–what do we have to look forward to this time?

City Highlights:

Diana: “Huntsville seems to be all about the stars–literally. The city is nicknamed ‘The Rocket City,’ because it has a lot of involvement with various U.S. space missions and is also home of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.”

Jesse: “StoryCorps will be in the center of this unique town culture too. The MobileBooth is actually going to be parked at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center for our time in Huntsville.”

Opening Day Insider Information:

Diana: “Once again, it’s all about the stars, baby. Our first set of VIP Participants is the current CEO of U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Dr. Deborah Barnhart, and Edward O. Buckbee, the first CEO of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. This interview will be followed by our second VIP interview with Ivy Joe Milan, soul singer and local celebrity, and Simba Foluke, Djembe drummer and musician.”

 

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StoryCorps’ MobileBooth in Huntsville, AL–parked outside the U.S. Space and Rocket Center!

My StoryBooth, My City.

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A travel guide from our team down South–StoryCorps in Atlanta.

When you are in the business of professional story-collecting, you grow to appreciate the fact that some of the most amazing tales can happen in the most “everyday” places.

In our animated short,“Eyes on the Stars,” a local library in South Carolina became the setting of a one kid sit-in. From our book Ties That Bind, Marvin Goldstein’s standard childhood apartment became the place of a legendary fall and a life-saving catch. In a subway train, you might make a connection with someone you’ll remember for the rest of your life. A New Mexico ranch might teach you life lessons you never thought possible.

The point is, everywhere you look, there is a story worth remembering. This is why we are dedicated to hearing voices from far and wide, in communities all across the nation–including our three StoryBooth locations in Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco.

After years of listening to our participants, the StoryBooth staff knows that their city is not just a city, but the backdrop to a million amazing stories. We decided to ask our remote staff to share some of that local wisdom with us in a series we’re calling, “My StoryBooth, My City.”

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Amanda Plumb, StoryCorps in Atlanta.

We begin with a little Southern hospitality. This week, We Are StoryCorps gets the 4-1-1 on the ATL from Amanda Plumb, Regional Manager at the StoryBooth in Atlanta, GA. She filled in the blanks on a few great things unique to her StoryBooth city.

So grab yourself some sweet tea, put your feet up, and enjoy this quick and easy travel guide from Amanda.

Welcome to Atlanta, y’all!

Favorite spot:

Amanda’s pick is Oakland Cemetery.

“My favorite spot in the city is Oakland Cemetery – an old Victorian cemetery with mausoleums, brick paths, beautiful plants and majestic trees with a view of downtown Atlanta. It’s a great place for a walk, picnic, or to sit and read a book.”

Photo Courtesy Amanda Plumb.

Oakland Cemetery. Photo Courtesy Amanda Plumb.

Neighborhoods to Check Out:

Amanda recommends East Atlanta and Little 5 Points.

“The eats are good in East Atlanta. Try bahn mi at We Suki Suki, sandwiches at Urban Cannibals, the lasagna at Grant Central Pizza, bun from Soba and anything from Delia’s Chicken Sausage. If it’s nice out, you’ll find me on the Holy Taco porch with a margarita, bacon taco, and fish taco. We also have a coffee shop (Joe’s) and a number of bars and music venues.

Meanwhile, Little 5 Points is a funky neighborhood with vintage shops, record stores, and great food. I’m partial to the grilled Caesar salad at the Porter (though everyone else seems to go there for the beer), a chevre, roasted garlic, and red pepper sauce pizza from Savage, or any burrito at Elmyr.”

Photo Courtesy Jeremy Helton.

Photo Courtesy Jeremy Helton.

You might not know this but…

Atlanta has pretty solid literary crowd.

“Atlanta has a booming literary scene and each month is packed with various literary events. For example, Write Club: a fight club inspired event where authors go head-to-head performing pieces they wrote based on their assigned topic. The crowd votes for a winner and money goes to the charity of the winner’s choosing. There’s also True Story, Carapase, and Scene Missing Magazine.”

The city also has super secret food markets.

“Each month, I look forward to Atlanta Underground Market–a pop-up food court of sorts featuring home cooks from all around the city. The location is a secret, so you have to sign up for the listserve to get the details.”

The Skinny on StoryCorps in Atlanta:

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McElreath Hall at The Atlanta History Center. Home of StoryCorps in Atlanta.

Our StoryBooth in Atlanta has been open since October 2009. Amanda walked us through a few of the basics.

“We record at the Atlanta History Center, a museum with a historic form and mansion. Even though we know the names of participants, part of the fun is not knowing what they’re going to talk about. Over the years, we’ve been quite surprised by some of the stories–including a man interviewing his psychic advisor and another guy proposing to his girlfriend in the studio.

Half of our interviews come through community partnerships. Local organizations will either send pairs to the booth or borrow our StoryKit (portable recording equipment) to record their own stories, or we may spend a day recording at their offices. Recently, we’ve worked with Friendship Baptist Church, Paradise Missionary Baptist Church, Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse, the American Red Cross, Southern Order of Storytellers–to name a few.”

StoryCorpsU 101

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Attention class! We Are StoryCorps has an exciting announcement to make. (You might want to take notes on this one–it may be on the test later). Introducing StoryCorpsU.org–the brand new website for our youth development program, StoryCorpsU!

On StoryCorpsU.org, you will find student produced content that gives a bird’s eye view into the classrooms and lives of students across the country. At the same time, the site acts as a great resource for the students to view their own hard work, as well as that of their peers. Also featured on the site are unique lesson plans about identity, history, and culture, featuring select broadcasts and animations produced by StoryCorps.

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StoryCorpsU (SCU) is an interactive, year-long youth development program for high-need schools. The program uses StoryCorps interview techniques, radio broadcasts and animated shorts, to support the development of identity and social intelligence in students. Through the course of the year, the kids get to record and share their own stories about where they’re from, who they are, and where they are going. StoryCorpsU is currently working with schools in 4 major cities: New York, NY, St. Louis, MO, Chicago, IL, and Washington, D.C.

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We’ve found that SCU is also an especially powerful tool for strengthening school relationships–a key factor in academic achievement. The program enables students to see their teachers as interested in not only their learning, but who they are as individuals as well.

As our students share stories among their teachers, families, and fellow students, real human connections are established and this plays an important role in high school completion.

SCU benefits educators as well. In a third-party evaluation conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education for the 2012-2013 school year, teachers reported that they, themselves, knew their students better, were more effective teaching diverse students, and were more interested in their students.

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Check out StoryCorpsU today!

StoryCorps Cribs: A Look Inside Our Recording Facilities

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The heart of StoryCorps is a 40 minute conversation between two people who care about one another. This moment happens within the space of a soundproof booth whose walls bear witness to stories in 54 different languages and contributed to recording 30,000+ hours of audio.

From San Francisco to Atlanta with Chicago in between, plus the countless stops along our Mobile Tour, tens of thousands of people enter our booths and immerse themselves into a different world for the next 40 minutes. Those 40 minutes are held with great reverence and pride at StoryCorps and we know how much the physical space of our recording booths impact the experience.

That’s where Elaine Kamlley comes in. As StoryCorps’ Manager, Recording & Operations, Elaine holds the (metaphorical and physical) keys to all StoryCorps facilities and ensures that they are the most ideal environment to share stories in.

We knew she’d be the best guide for touring our sites and explaining what makes them so unique. So join us now as we take a walk through the StoryCorps real estate, one soundproof booth at a time…

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Before we go any further, let’s just run through the basics of our recording facilities. Here are some key terms for your reference:

  • MobileBooth: Airstream trailer outfitted with recording equipment to collect stories in various cities year-round.

  • StoryBooth: Publicly accessible recording studios permanently located in one individual city.

So in sum, the MobileBooth is like a recording studio on wheels…
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While a StoryBooth stays in one place…
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“The StoryBooth is basically an 8′x8′x8′ cube,” says Elaine. “This model is currently in San Francisco and Chicago and is deliberately designed to be easily disassembled and reassembled. The recording booth is made of 12 interlocking panels that can be fitted together without using any power tools.” This design comes in particularly handy when a change of venue is in order. For example, our most recent move in San Francisco.

The StoryBooth had to be moved from The Contemporary Jewish Museum to the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) last month. The ability to construct and deconstruct the StoryBooth at any given time certainly helps in such instances. In fact, the StoryBooth currently residing at SFPL has been through the process a few times.

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“That model of the StoryBooth has been installed and operated in 3 locations–Milwaukee Public Library (2007-2008), the Contemporary Jewish Museum (2008-2014), and now SFPL,” says Elaine. “After our fifth installation, we’ve really taken advantage of that modular design.”

FUN FACT: In the five locations these specific models have been in, they have collected 3,617 interviews and approximately 7,000+ people have sat at its microphones.

Okay, so the ease of assembly (and dismantling) is great for those who have to move the StoryBooth from one place to another. But how does this affect the quality of the interview process? Elaine explained that the design of the booths very much “reflects the simplicity of the storytelling process itself.” The materials of the StoryBooth might seem simple–aluminum, acoustic wood panels, and foam–but painstaking care goes into every StoryBooth site from concept to design.

Elaine mentioned that when choosing a site, accessibility, quality of sound, and level of comfortability for our participants are all measured and considered.

“During that first site visit, we are looking for a place that is quiet, welcoming for participants, and supportive to our staff,” she says. These checks never truly end, as upkeep and management of the already installed facilities are an ever-present necessity. “My work doesn’t just include one initial visit prior to installing the StoryBooth,” she added. “I visit and maintain the sites year-round.”

As one can imagine, these many trips have resulted in a lot of experiences during her adventures on-site, particularly with the people she works with. “What is most memorable about site visits is getting to know our field staff,” she told us. Elaine trains our facilitators and field staff during her visits–ensuring they are masters of audio recording. “The brilliance, passion, and scrappiness that our field staff exude makes my job so much fun and worthwhile,” Elaine says. “Plus, they know the best places to get local eats.”

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Big thanks to Elaine for sitting down with us this week at We Are StoryCorps!