StoryCorps is an American non-profit organization whose mission is to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. StoryCorps grew out of Sound Portraits Productions as a project founded in 2003 by radio producer David Isay. Its headquarters are located in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.
StoryCorps is modeled—in spirit and in scope—after the efforts of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930s, through which oral history interviews across the United States were recorded. Another inspiration for the organization was oral historian Studs Terkel, who cut the ribbon at the opening of StoryCorps’ first recording booth in Grand Central Terminal. To date, StoryCorps has recorded more than 45,000 interviews among more than 80,000 Americans in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and several American territories.
StoryCorps interviews usually take place between two people who know and care about each other. They can be friends, family, or mere acquaintances. A trained StoryCorps facilitator guides participants through the interview process. At the end of each 40-minute recording session, participants receive a complimentary CD of their interview and are requested to make a $25 donation to offset the recording costs. With participant permission, a second copy of each interview is archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for future generations to hear. Segments of select interviews may air nationally on NPR’s Morning Edition. These interviews can also be heard on the StoryCorps website.
There are several ways by which participants can record their stories.
Participants can visit StoryBooths, which are small, publicly accessible recording studios located in public places. The first StoryBooth opened in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal on October 23, 2003, and was moved to Lower Manhattan’s Foley Square in July 2005. The second StoryBooth opened at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco in October 2008. The third StoryBooth opened at Atlanta’s public radio station WABE in October 2009.
In May 2005, two StoryCorps MobileBooths built from converted Airstream trailers began traveling the country, recording stories in various cities year-round.
StoryCorps offers three additional recordings services for those who are unable to visit a StoryCorps booth. The Door-to-Door service sends teams of StoryCorps facilitators to temporary recording locations throughout the United States for several days at a time. The StoryKit service ships a professional quality, portable recording device to participants around the country. The “Do-It-Yourself” service allows individuals to download free step-by-step interview instructions, equipment recommendations, and a “Great Question” list to conduct interviews using their own recording equipment.
StoryCorps collaborates with groups, organizations, and institutions all over the country. Specifically, StoryCorps currently supports four major initiatives that seek to reach out to the widest range of participants.
- The Military Voices Initiative records, shares, and preserves the stories of post-9/11 veterans, active-duty service members, and their families.
- StoryCorps Legacy provides opportunities for people with serious illness, and their relatives, to record and share their life stories.
- The Memory Loss Initiative encourages individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss to share their stories.
- The Historias Initiative collects the stories of Latinos throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.
- The Griot Initiative preserves the voices and experiences of African Americans. These stories will be archived at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
- The September 11 Initiative honors and remembers the stories of survivors, rescue workers, and others most personally affected by the events of September 11, 2001.
- Through MobileTour Outreach, StoryCorps provides community-based organizations with an opportunity to record and preserve stories of the communities they serve to pass on to future generations.
StoryCorps has also published three books:
- Isay, Dave. (2007). Listening Is an Act of Love. Penguin Press HC. (ISBN 1594201404, ISBN 978-1-59420-140-0)
- Isay, Dave. (2010). Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps. (Penguin Press HC. ISBN 1-59420-261-3)
- Isay, Dave. (2012). All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps. (Penguin Press HC. ISBN 1-59420-321-0)
- StoryCorps website
- Sound Portraits website
- Feature length radio interview with KGNU Claudia Cragg discussing StoryCorps