When Dave Isay first launched the StoryCorps project – an independent archive of interviews between two people – nobody wanted to participate. StoryCorps staff at Grand Central Station would have to grab commuters and convince them to come into the tiny recording booth to share their stories.
Ten years later, StoryCorps has conducted 45,000 interviews with nearly 90,000 participants. Those stories – often inspirational, almost always tear-jerkers – are archived at the Library of Congress, and select stories are played Friday mornings on Morning Edition.
Isay sat down with The Record’s Marcie Sillman when he was in Seattle coordinating interviews at the Gates Foundation. He said that he didn’t know where the project was headed when it got started.
“When I started StoryCorps, I thought there were a finite number of interactions people could have in the booth and that eventually they would start to repeat,” Isay said. “So I thought there might be stories that we would have for six months or seven months and then they would just stop.”
But the stories kept coming in, and now it's not unusual for there to be a 1,000 person waiting list.
Recording these interviews are facilitators who are hired for one to three years. Some stay in a city, but others travel the country with an AirStream trailer that doubles as a recording studio. They record 40-minute interviews between two people – usually friends or relatives – and then send their favorites back to Brooklyn, N.Y., where a production team edits segments for the following Friday.
We asked our listeners, readers and staff to tell us some of their favorite StoryCorps segments. Below are four they recommended, plus the full audio of Callie speaking with her dad.
Bonnie Brown speaks with her mother Myra Brown about growing up with a mother with a disability:
Happy Dodson and Taz Roman, members of Bikers Against Child Abuse, talk about their work:
Ronald McNair was one of the astronauts aboard the space shuttle Challenger that exploded shortly after liftoff in 1986. His older brother Carl McNair remembers him:
Barbara Handelsman often felt like her family wanted her to be different somehow. But she has always had a special connection with her 20-year-old grandson Aaron:
Full audio of Callie talking with her dad about wanting to start a coffee company in honor of her friend Ben, who died of cancer:
Produced by Arwen Nicks.