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StoryCorps to collect local oral history 

Retrofitted Airstream is the 'griot booth'

IT'S TIME to brush the cobwebs off your best stories and share them with the world. The non-profit StoryCorps, a program dedicated to documenting and archiving the oral histories of everyday people around the country, is coming to Savannah for 26 days starting January 27 to collect anecdotes and lore from the Hostess City.

StoryCorps was founded by award-winning documentarian David Isay in October 2003 an extension of his belief that “listening is an act of love.” Since then, the organization has collected thousands of stories from people all over the country, first in kiosks in New York City and San Francisco, and since 2005 as a mobile tour with recording equipment housed in a retro-fitted Airstream trailer.

“As StoryCorps has traveled across the country, we’ve seen the profound effect it has had not only on the lives of those who have participated in the project, but also on the millions who have heard them each week on NPR,” says Isay. “We’re so proud to continue our mission to teach people to become better listeners, and help Americans appreciate the strength in the stories of everyday people they find all around them.”

Interviews are conducted between two people who know each other (so bring a friend) and are overseen by a member of the StoryCorps team who handles the recording.

At the end of each 40-minute session, participants walk away with a CD of their interview, and if permitted, a copy is archived in the Library of Congress. Some segments may also air on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Over the five years StoryCorps has been in existence, they’ve captured everything from firsthand accounts of great historical moments to intimate family stories that may not have ever been heard before. The organization’s stay in Savannah is thanks to a partnership with local GPB station WSVH 91.1 FM, who had to apply for the privilege of hosting StoryCorps over a year in advance, as well as community partners, the Georgia Historical Society and the Telfair Museum of Art.

“Story Corps makes it possible for Americans to celebrate the individual voices that together make up our national story,” says Georgia Historical Society Executive Vice President and CEO Laura Garcia-Culler.

“Many who would never think to write down the histories of their lives will be able to make recordings that will ensure a future for their family’s past.”

During the visit to Savannah, StoryCorps will park their road-tested studio on the west side of President Street, off of Telfair Square, just outside the Telfair Academy building. They plan to collect approximately 120 interviews during their stay, and if you have a story that needs to be told, reservations are required. Reservations opened on January 13, and once all the slots are filled, there will also be a waiting list, just in case of last minute cancellations.

“The Savannah community is filled with culturally rich and diverse stories that GPB and WSVH 91.1 FM are proud to bring to our loyal listeners and members,” said GPB Radio Program Director Rob Maynard. “We are delighted to encourage this dialogue and to showcase the city through our partnership with StoryCorps.”

Having completed its first trip through the entire contiguous in July of 2008, the StoryCorps crew is currently spending the winter in the friendlier climate of the South, a perfect opportunity to capture the quirky charm and historical significance that permeate throughout Savannah.

“Our city, with its unique and storied history, is a wonderful location for this project,” says Garcia-Culler. “From the founding as Georgia ’s first city to the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, Savannah has an important story to share. While GHS is primarily known for its archival treasures, through the voices of local citizens who remember the life of our community, state, and nation we are helping to preserve our history in a form that can be shared across the airwaves and into the future.” cs

The StoryCorps' Mobilebooth will be at the corner of President and Barnard Streets in Telfair Square Jan. 27-Feb. 21. The Mobilebooth is available by reservation only; call 800/850-4406.
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