It’s been an amazing week in Green Bay, Wisconsin!
After arriving in the city on Wednesday night, I head to the airstream for my first day of recordings in Green Bay on Friday morning. As I resettle into the booth, my colleagues and I are also preparing to finish our stop here – this is the final week of recordings in Green Bay before we head to St. Louis, Missouri for our next stop on the Mobile Tour. I’m excited to be back in the recording space after my office stint and am ready to listen to some amazing stories.
My first recording is with a family of three stopping in to record a conversation before moving their daughter into college later in the afternoon. Lucia asks her parents Jim and Maria about their lives, memories they share as a family, and advice they might have for her as she prepares for her next adventure at college.
It’s a privilege to be present for moments like these in participants’ lives – when people come to commemorate a milestone, remember a loved one, or share something they’ve never shared before, I feel honored that they trust me to listen to their story and record it.
Shira hangs in the lobby/office section of the airstream while I finish the first recording of the day. We take turns facilitating appointments at 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm, and 4:30pm. Within these hour blocks, we budget time for a 40-minute recording and some time to do paperwork and take photos of participants. We trade off facilitating every other appointment so that we can “database” information about the recordings we’ve facilitated into StoryCorps’ Online Archive. Databasing is how we preserve all of the information surrounding StoryCorps recordings and make them searchable on the archive so that other people can find and listen to these stories. One of the ways we accomplish this is by giving each of our archived recordings a short description, helping someone searching the archive know what the conversation is about at a glance. We also add keywords, sort of like hashtags, to archive entries so that conversations surrounding the same topics can be searched for together. During each recording, we take notes to create what’s called a “subject log,” highlighting what participants talk about at different times in the conversation and creating timestamps for them to navigate to particular moments in the recording.
Today is the day of our listening event, a gathering for community members and participants to come together and commemorate StoryCorps’ stop in Green Bay. Listening events are a chance for community members to listen to some of the stories recorded during our stop, learn more about StoryCorps, and celebrate the voices of the people of Green Bay. Tonight we’re hosting the event at the Aging and Disability Resource Center, our site partner here in Green Bay.
As people trickle in for the listening event, we invite them to participate in an activity called “join the conversation.” Guests can pick up a pen and respond to quotes and questions heard during our stop, written on posters around the space. This is a chance to hear from those who have recorded in Green Bay and engage new perspectives. I always learn a lot from these posters.
One of today’s posters asked, “If you could talk to a younger version of yourself, what would you say?” Messages about accepting mistakes resonate. As more people join the crowd, I wonder what I’d tell the younger version of myself who was just joining the StoryCorps Mobile Tour almost a year ago. Suddenly, over 70 people are here, and it’s time to listen to some stories from Green Bay We all sit down and get quiet. The silence feels eager, a lot like when we are about to hit record in the Booth.
The crowd laughs, cries, and applauds as Wisconsin Public Radio plays pieces from participant recordings this stop. Audience members ask each other questions about the recording experience, and participants reflect on the importance of sharing stories. Even though I only joined the road for the tail-end of this stop, I feel so welcomed by our site and station partners, as well as by community members who came to record. I even saw some of the participants I recorded with over the past week!
Throughout it all, I keep hearing expressions of gratitude. I feel grateful too. Grateful that I got to know this community, even if it was for a short time, grateful for the stories that participants were brave enough to share, and, in a bittersweet way, grateful for another meaningful adventure that is about to unfold on our next stop. St. Louis, Missouri, here we come!