Father Columba Stewart, O.S.B. is used to assumptions. He is Executive Director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, a 2011 winner of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. When we met it took all of my power to not ask if his life was anything like an Indiana Jones movie. HMML specializes in preserving early religious manuscripts, keeping digitized copies place far away from the originals to prevent loss in cases of accidental fire or flood.
Fr. Columba assuaged my fears during his conversation with Dr. Patrick Henry. In reality, Fr. Columba and the HMML team spend more time and energy digitally photographing manuscripts and significantly less time hunting down hidden rooms. But this is not to say Fr. Columba hasn’t had that experience too. He told Patrick about on excursion in which he entered a room via a door hidden behind a bookcase, only to find another hidden room…and then another. Indy’s theme music played in my head as I listened to him.
It’s easy to guess why so many of our other participants mentioned Fr. Columba when speaking about HMML. He is passionate about his work with manuscripts and the Benedictine culture, and it’s easy to understand and feel close to the pieces housed at HMML. Think of their importance in literary terms or in religious terms, but the fact remains that at some point in the future, we can all look back and find, safe and sound, a story that was important enough to write down.
In StoryCorps’ case, we’ll find the conversations worth recording.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awards The National Medal to five libraries and five museums for extraordinary civic, educational, economic, environmental, and social contributions to their communities. This award is the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries, and StoryCorps is proud to record the stories of these distinguished institutions. Click here for a full list of this year’s winners.
StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled to the Land of a Thousand Lakes to record stories of the staff and patrons of the Hennepin County Library System, which includes the Minneapolis Central Library, Edina, Plymouth and Sumner Libraries. Over twelve recording days, the team recorded stories as diverse as Minnesota’s landscape. However, we wanted to share one story from our time in Minnesota about a group of people who are often invisible: the men and women of the Hennepin County Adult Corrections Facility. Cheryl D. Tigue and her coworker, Kathleen Hannan, came to the Plymouth Library to talk about Kathleen’s thirty-year career in corrections.
Kathleen earned her graduate degree in Public Health and in 1979 and began working for Hennepin County Adult Corrections’ female division. At the time, there were about forty female residents. Her first day on the job, Kathleen remembers, “I was so excited to have a job. I felt like I belonged there.”
In the last three months, StoryCorps recorded interviews in six different towns in the land of 10,000 lakes. While partnering with the Great River Regional Library of Minnesota, we recorded in Annandale, Elk River, St. Cloud, Melrose, Little Falls and Staples. We heard stories from all walks of life — including farmers, mothers, teachers, nurses, doctors, and soldiers of Central Minnesota.
Our partner, the Great River Regional Library, is a group of thirty-two branch libraries that provide books, materials, computers, programming and information services to almost 450,000 residents. The branch libraries are a source of knowledge and information in their communities, and for March, April and May they were our host family.
In our visit to Staples, Carol Weber, 63, came with her husband Rick Weber, 64, and her mother-in- law, Mrs. Marlys Weber, 87. During their interview, Mrs Marlys talked about her heritage, meeting her husband and her family. Halfway into their interview, Rick and Mrs. Marlys talked about how Ernie, Marlys’ husband, started the family business. “Ernie’s Food Market” was different than most grocery stores in Staples, MN. At that time, most grocery stores had a person that would take their order in, the order would be filled for them and the customer paid for it at the counter. Ernie started the first self service grocery store in Staples, and for a while it even provided both services.
Mrs. Marlys also described how she helped her husband stocking the store and how Ernie’s Food Market keeps growing and growing. Ernie retired and currently Ernie’s Food Market has a different owner, but it is still the town’s main grocery store and still has the neon sign to let you know who used to own it.
To learn more about The Great River Regional Library, please visit http://www.griver.org/
Barbara Andrews came to StoryCorps to do something slightly different than most people do. Instead of having a conversation with a loved one, Barbara used her 40 minutes to record a letter in sound to her granddaughter, Megan. Barbara began, “Megan, when you were a little girl, you always wanted me to tell you a story about when I was a girl. This is the way I remember it.”
Our playhouse was the body of an old Model-T Ford. We put water in the radiator and could turn a little spigot so we had running water. This house was like Laura Ingalls Wilder. There was no electricity or running water, so you know the kind of bathroom we had.
Barbara spoke about meeting her husband, George, and having a large family. Toward the end of the recording, Barbara started to talk about “the old brown house at Bass Lake.” Barbara and George lived in the house for more than 50 years and raised many children and grandchildren there. To her, it was “a paradise.” But after the kids moved away and George died, the house was different.
Now the old brown house is really quiet. There are no longer sounds of laughter or fighting or playing or babies crying. There’s nobody singing and no more sounds of cooking or cleaning in anticipation of coming company. But then when I am really quiet in my own heart, I begin to hear those beautiful sounds again. I hear the creaking of the old rocking chair where I sat and held sick babies. I can hear the soft sounds of Grandpa George as he attempts to get ready to leave for work without waking me.
As Barbara got older, it became harder for her to stay at the old brown house, and recently, she decided to move into town.
After all those years it was really hard to leave the old brown house at beautiful Bass Lake. But with the love and support of my family and friends, I find myself very content in the little white house which we are busy filling with many good memories.
Phenology: A branch of science dealing with the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena.? Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
John Latimer has his Carhart logger jeans rolled up. He is taking me on a short nature hike up the Mississippi River, which runs in back of the MobileWest booth. John is a rural mail carrier in Grand Rapids, Minnesota who has been hosting The Phenology Show at KAXE for 25 years, collecting data about the natural world from classrooms and fellow observers. He gets people excited about what they see.
We first met Heidi Holtan, Radio Producer at KAXE in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, after a long and scenic 3 day drive from Grand Junction, Colorado. We were just in time to see the Dahl’s Sunrise Dairy truck pull up to the radio station for its weekly milk drop off. Right now, I am enjoying a cup of 1% milk out of a glass bottle that has to be returned to the milkman next Wednesday.
Grand Rapids has a population of less than 8,000 people. There are over 100 volunteers at KAXE, a grassroots radio station in Northern Minnesota. KAXE used to be located at a local college, but has moved to a beautiful one-level building designed by an associate of Frank Lloyd Wright. The kitchen is the best part, featuring bright green walls, a bottomless coffee pot, and the largest collection of communal Tupperware I have ever seen.
There was a big storm today with strong winds and loud thunder (but you could only hear it faintly in the booth). The wind blew our signs around and roughed up our participants – a couple of participants took a taxi half a block from where their car was parked to the booth. But when the day was done, we came out of the booth and saw this glowing sunset.
Today we crossed the Mississippi River on our way to Minneapolis. It was a historic moment, since this booth will travel only to places west of the Mississippi for the next ten years. We took a scenic route along the river and snapped this photo on the drive.