Founded in 2003 and new to Chicago, StoryCorps offers space, equipment, and assistance to people with something to say. It’s “a very simple idea,” as founder Dave Isay once put it. “You bring a loved one with you, a parent, a friend, someone you met on the bus whose story you want to get to know. And the door shuts, and for 40 minutes you just talk.” What you talk about is up to you.
The conversation takes place in a small, soundproof digital recording booth. Chicago’s eight feet by eight feet fit two participants plus a StoryCorps facilitator intimately (there’s room for a third participant to sit in on but not be part of the conversation). At the beginning of the one-hour appointment, the facilitator goes through guidelines, suggests questions, and checks microphone levels, then for the most part lets the participants navigate the conversation. At the end of the session, two CDs are burned. One goes home with the participants, and the other is archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Each Friday, the national StoryCorps organization contributes an edited story for broadcast on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Recently, the Chicago Public Library was selected to take part in the national pilot program StoryCorps @ Your Library. In conjunction with this year’s One Book, One Chicago pick, Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, the program will record stories from people involved in the Great Migration.