In early August StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled to Columbus, Ohio, for three days of recording with the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML), a 2011 awardee of the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal.
It was fitting that the scope of our participants’ conversations was wide, as members of the CML community were invited to share the stories of their lives. Parents and children shared family histories. Two women discussed their children’s marriage to each other. Best friends talked about the bonds of their relationship. And two of our participants, April Johnson and her fiancé, Michael Dornbusch, discussed their life together during their cancer diagnoses. (more…)
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.
Constance Christensen is a retired attorney and the mother of four adult children, and one of her daughters, Elizabeth (“Liz”) Foster, jumped at the opportunity to record a conversation with her at Brooklyn Museum this spring.
A big part of Liz and her siblings’ childhood was regular visits to museums with their parents. Connie says she loved art, but she knew that if her children didn’t want to stay at the museum, then she wouldn’t be able to. Connie knew she had to get creative.
“So, I invented games,” she said, and remembered how she asked her children questions, like “Which piece has your favorite color?” until it evolved into a game they called What I’d Take Home.
During the interview, Liz and Connie explained the rules to me. (more…)
Facilitator Katherine Brook and I traveled to Wisconsin to learn about the Madison Children’s Museum through its exhibits and the people who make them possible: staff, visitors, donors, and volunteers. The Madison Children’s Museum is one of ten winners of the 2011 Institute of Museum and Library Services National Medal, an award given to institutions for their outstanding public programming. One prize received by winners is three days of StoryCorps interviews by way of our Door-to-Door service.
Interview participants painted a picture of a museum that celebrates and learns from its community in myriad ways, from going on cultural tours to dangling cows from the ceiling. The diverse types of learning embraced at the museum are made possible not only by its exhibits but also by the museum’s loyalty to its museum family, be they fiberglass cows, local experts, volunteers, or fourth graders. (more…)
When we first walked through the doors of EdVenture last week, co-facilitator Daniel Littlewood and I faced two of the largest feet we had ever seen. We looked at one another and uttered an incredulous, “Whoa!?” We had to investigate. Passing under the archway, we walked into an atrium, and there he was all 40 feet, 17.5 tons of him: Eddie, the worlds largest child (see the slideshow below).
If the museum’s signature exhibit could make us feel like kids again, we could only imagine the wonders it might work on a five year old. I was excited to find out what else this National Medal Award-winning museum had in store. If the world’s biggest boy says one thing about EdVenture, it’s that this is a place that puts kids first. “We were creating a museum that was for children. This is the world on their terms,” said Catherine Monetti, one of the museum’s original designers. Hands-on learning and creating “ah-ha” experiences are keys to this museum’s brand of education.
Eddie is a prime example of this, and he’s more than a giant statue: Eddie is an interactive exhibit. Kids learn how their bodies work while playing in Eddie, crawling through his brain, listening to his heartbeat, and sliding down his esophagus.
Storycorps Door-to-Door had the pleasure of visiting the Erie Art Museum, one of the 2011 Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) National Medal Award winners. In our three days of recording, participant after participant shared stories of how the museum has become a major community hub, and we quickly came to understand why the museum was honored nationally for its “significant and exceptional contributions to their communities.” The museum has a lot more than an award to be proud of, with programming that allows its patrons to truly “be moved.”
A Thursday morn did Everet Martin
and his wife come in,
to have their story, now recorded
in the Library-
of Congress, that is.We met Everet and Barbara last month in Weippe, Idaho, when they participated in StoryCorps and shared their touching love story.
Have you ever heard of Weippe? Located on the Gold Rush Historic Byway, it’s the place where the Lewis and Clark expedition first met the Nez Percé in September 1806.
Okay, I must admit that when I think of libraries, the image conjured (as stereotypical and dated as it may be) features cold, fluorescent lighting. Aisles upon aisles of books. The Dewey Decimal System. People hunched over dusty periodicals in an almost religious repose. The Quiet Police, also known as librarians. You get the picture.
So, when StoryCorps Door-to-Door visited our first 2012 Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) National Medal Award winner, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. branch of the San Jose Public Library, I was both curious and excited to discover just how much the daunting public institution of my youth has evolved.
Located in the heart of downtown San Jose, the library’s facade resembles the other sleek glass and concrete office towers, but once inside it reveals it’s true identity: a community hub, campus hangout and epicenter for learning. One look out of an east wing window reveals sweeping mountain vistas, an old bell tower, and San Jose State University academic buildings, a landscape dotted with palm trees. Immediately impressed, I looked forward to meeting some of the folks who made this place special.
Fortunately, library administrators Jane Light and Ned Himmel set the record straight. The first sign that this wasn’t the library of my past came when Jane quoted Keith Richards: “The public library is the great equalizer.” Very cool.
StoryCorps Door-to-Door set out to record the stories of yet another one of the best museums in the country: Explora, a science center and children’s museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Sandia Mountains were a welcome change from the city skyline and when we stepped into the building, we knew why Explora earned a National Medal Award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Simply put, Explora is an amazing place to play and learn for children of all ages.
Like many of our participants, kindergarten teacher Mariam Martinez remembered when she first developed an interest in science. During a third grade field trip to the Museum of Natural History in New York City, a museum docent talked with the children about the Eskimo people and asked the class to look for an element missing from the Eskimos’ jackets. Mariam told her friend Sara of her classmates’ reactions to the observations she shared with the docent. “Everybody looked at me like how did you know that. And I thought, my observations are good. So, that was my initial interest in science, making observations.”
As a kindergarten teacher in Albuquerque, Mariam helps her students make their own scientific observations. Sometimes the students visit Explora where they can touch the exhibits, play with the parts and learn about the science that surrounds us all.
Facilitator Daniel Littlewood and I traveled to West Bloomfield, Michigan to record stories of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library community. Michigan’s weather greeted us with a cold front, but the library staff, patrons and participants were plenty warm and inviting. Brenda, our on-site contact, gave us a tour during the first day. Besides their large collection of books, the library boasts a state-of-the-art computer center, outdoor patio space near several nature walks, and a magazine corner with a fireplace. According to the West Bloomfield residents we spoke to, the library is their home away from home, which may be one reason the Institute for Museum and Library Services gave the library one of ten National Medal Awards.
We recorded stories from residents of diverse backgrounds who utilize the library’s resources in a variety of ways. When Melba Harris was laid off from her job as a medical technologist, she had the opposite reaction of most people. As Melba remembers, “Being laid off was one of the best things that happened in my life. In being laid off, I learned who I am. And who I am is being resilient to what life brings me and being happy [with] whatever life gives me because this is the only life that you have.” (more…)
Peter White Public Library in Marquette, MI, was one of the ten libraries and museums honored with a 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Services. Their award includes three days of Door-to-Door interviews, and Facilitator Gaspar Caro and I trekked the snowy shores of Lake Superior to record them.
We realized our time in the Upper Peninsula would be special when on the night before the recordings started, the library held a reception celebrating their IMLS National Medal and the arrival of StoryCorps, complete with a beautiful cake!
We recorded conversations with a grandfather and grandson whose family has used the Peter White Public Library for four generations, best friends who remembered having a little too much fun on some nights before working at the library, two writers and professors who overcame their fears of public speaking, and many more. Check out the faces of Marquette, MI, in the slideshow below.
If you have ever been fascinated with Little House on the Prairie, wanted to live on the open frontier or wondered how early American settlers lived, then the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park in Fishers, IN, is the place for you. With its innovative approach to preserving and sharing United States history, Conner Prairie is a much deserving recipient of a 2011 National Medal from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. My co-facilitator and I had the pleasure of visiting Fisher, IN, to record the stories of the staff and volunteers who make Conner Prairie more than just a place where history comes alive. Check out the slide show below for photos from our trip.
Han-Yu Hung, Eric Sanderson, and their son Everett Sanderson visited The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) on a wintry Saturday afternoon in February to record with StoryCorps. Co-Facilitator Carolina Correa and I were there because The Institute for Museum and Library Services awarded the NYBG three recording days when it won the prestigious 2010 IMLS National Medal.
Han works at the NYBG and the family frequently visits as members of the Children’s Gardening Program. Everett described exploring the garden’s woods with his friends, admiring the chipmunks, cardinals, and wildlife, all reveling in the pastoral respite from the Bronx’s cement cityscape. (more…)
It may be too late to say ‘Happy New Year,’ but it is the perfect time to congratulate the Institute of Museum and Library Services 2011 National Medal winners. This year ten institutions have been recognized for excellence in this field. As part of the National Medal award, each organization receives three recording days with StoryCorps. Luckily for my co-facilitator and I, our first trip brought us to sunny Los Angeles, CA, to the Japanese American National Museum. Not only was the trip a welcome respite from the cold New York weather, but also the stories of the volunteers and staff of the museum are an important part of a history that many have forgotten.
During World War II, the United States government removed thousands of Japanese families from their homes in California, Washington, Oregon and several other states and sent them to internment camps for the duration of the war. Allowed to take only minimal possessions, families were sent as far away as Minnesota and Arkansas. Many families never returned to their original homes. Determined to preserve this little known history, a group of grassroots activists started the Japanese American National Museum in 1985.
Over the last twenty-six years, the museum has evolved to not only includes stories and exhibitions of the Issei and Nisei (the first and second generation of Japanese Americans, respectively), but also works to create bridges with diverse communities in an effort to tell the full American story. It was a privilege to record the stories of staff and volunteers who breathe life into the museum’s mission everyday.
After the break, read about how the museum became one couple’s matchmaker.
Josh Green (right) and Justin Mazzei (center) brought their friend and associate, Bill Strickland (left), to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh for a StoryCorps interview on an October Saturday. StoryCorps visited the Museum after it won the National Award for Museum Service from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
Bill described growing up in Pittsburgh’s Northside, which was once a culturally robust section enriched by residents’ work in the steel mills. As industry declined, the neighborhood emptied and fell into violent despair.
Josh and Justin asked Bill, a nonprofit executive, which memory he would hold onto for all eternity. Bill humbly replied to Josh’s and Justin’s superlative challenge by describing his favorite memory as marked by the light of Saturday afternoon.
For most job interviews, we prepare ourselves to talk about our career accomplishments, our strengths, and what we could bring to a company. However, if you apply for a position at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, they will ask, “How did you play as a child?”
Last month, StoryCorps visited the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, where the museum’s patrons, staff, and aficionados shared their own stories of playing as children and why they are all committed to helping this institution foster creativity and a love for learning in the next generation. It is no wonder why the Children’s Museum is a recipient of the National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
Having received the National Medal, the highest honor awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Stark County District Library in Canton, OH, invited StoryCorps to record the stories of its patrons. During our visit, Sarah Elizabeth Studer interviewed her grandfather, Paul “Juni” Studer, about his life and some of the lessons he’s learned in the business of sign making.
Paul, called “Juni” by those who know him, began making signs while working in his father’s restaurant in Massillon, OH. While speaking to his granddaughter, Juni described the town’s local culture. “You have to like football. It’s the thing that makes the whole place go.” While working for his father, Juni made signs that listed each local Friday night football game, along with the rival team. His work became known throughout the community, and soon, Juni landed a job at Adam’s Sign Company.
In the beginning, Juni loved his work at the company, but as his job changed, so did his love for his work. After a misunderstanding with an important sign order, Juni and his wife, Dolores, decided to go into business for themselves and opened Studer Sign Shop in the garage of their small home in 1962.
After almost forty years in business for himself, Juni has learned one thing. “You’ve got to like what you do,” he told his granddaughter. “Your future depends on your attitude on Sunday evening. You probably had a party on Friday, went to the movies on Saturday, and now it’s Sunday evening. Are you gonna say ‘Oh no! Another week’ or are you gonna say ‘Wow! Tomorrow is Monday and I’m gonna accomplish this. If you can end up doing something you like, then you’ll be a success.”
If Portland, Oregon isn’t currently one of your top choices of places to see in the United States, you might think about updating your list. Heralded as one of the ‘greenest’ cities in America, Portland is a hotbed of community activity and a beacon of 21st century city planning. Bicyclists and pedestrians fill the tree-lined streets, taking time from their leisurely stroll for a quick cup of Stumptown coffee or a bite to eat at one of the local food carts.
A big city that still retains the small town vibe, Portland is a place where happy hour-frequenting 20-somethings and families coexist peacefully. And smack dab in the middle of downtown Portland sits the Multnomah County Central Library, a pillar of this North Western community since 1913. Like Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), the Multnomah Library was a 2009 recipient of the National Medal Award, awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to the ten best libraries and museums around the country.
(Multnomah County Library, front entrance)
Behind the beautiful facade of the building lies nearly 17 miles (yes, MILES) of book shelving, which is a good thing because according to the Library’s website the average library card holder in Multnomah county checks out nearly 31 items per year, a national record.
Last week, StoryCorps Facilitator Sophie Simon-Ortiz and I traveled from foggy San Francisco to Sunny Portland for three days of recordings. Here are a few of the stories that came out of that quiet room in the back of the library.
Not quite underwater, fellow facilitator Katrina Singh and I were actually at the Tennessee Aquarium. We hit the road in early August, headed two hours north of Atlanta to Chattanooga. The three-day recording experience was a gift to the Tennessee Aquarium from IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services). Each year, IMLS awards five museums and five libraries with the nation’s highest honor, the National Medal. In 2009, the Tennessee Aquarium was among the ten institutions to receive it.
Tennessee Aquarium Communications Manager Thom Benson immediately made us feel at home. While Katrina facilitated the first conversation, I checked out the seahorses just around the corner – what a diverse and colorful group of fish. At the end of the day, Thom took us on a tour of the museum’s Ocean Journey building. There we were mesmerized by jellyfish, impressed by the variety and numbers of marine animals and amused by penguins. It was a blast!
During the month of August, my co-facilitator Naomi Greene and I visited the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, FL. MOSI won the National Medal Award, awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to the ten best libraries and museums around the country.
MOSI’s core ideology is to make a difference in people’s lives by making science real for people of all ages and backgrounds. During our visit to MOSI, we recorded interviews with people that share their love and passion for science with all the museum’s visitors.
Julie Fooshee (L) and Hadley Andersen (R) took time out of their very busy day to sit down and discuss their research and work at MOSI. They have amazing jobs. Known throughout the MOSI organization as “interactors,” Julie and Hadley spend a lot of their time in and around the museum’s 450 exhibits. Julie describes an interactor as “…a little bit of everything. They play, they teach…they are tour guides. Everything.” Interactors are the people that make the exhibits and the information come alive for the patrons.