StoryCorps, An Oral History of America

Sound Booths Will Record Ordinary People's Life Stories

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Veteran New York City subway operator Joe Caracciolo recorded his story about delivering a baby on the C train. Courtesy StoryCorps hide caption

Hear his story and other pilot recordings at the StoryCorps Web site.
itoggle caption Courtesy StoryCorps

A booth in New York City's Grand Central Terminal will be the first collection point for a new national oral history project modeled after recordings made of ordinary Americans during the 1930s. NPR's Bob Edwards talks to David Isay about the StoryCorps project.

For $10, participants can bring relatives, friends or acquaintances to the booth. Trained "facilitators" will help record 40-minute sessions. Participants will keep a CD, and copies will be preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Isay, of Sound Portraits Productions, says the StoryCorps project was inspired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) recordings made during the 1930s. "It's not about celebrities," he says. "It's about the kind of quiet heroes that make up America, the soul of America."

To prepare, Isay made pilot recordings of his relatives and relatives of staff members. "It's a very moving experience for people," he says. "...A lot of times we see people just break down crying at the beginning of an interview, just because they feel so honored that this relative really wants to listen to what they have to say."

Isay says the project expects to open booths around the country starting in February.

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