29 January 2013

My Day with StoryCorps

     Today was a very exciting day, with my first visit to StoryCorps.  When the Atlanta location moved to the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead (north Atlanta), I'd talked my mom into going and letting me interview her.  I'd set up the appointment a few weeks ago and by last night I'd gotten pretty nervous about it.

     Mom and I went out to lunch and then headed into Atlanta.  We arrived about an hour an a half early and spent some time in the exhibits at the Atlanta History Center before heading over to the StoryCorps office at McElreath Hall.  I've been here before, to research at the Kenan Research Library, so I had a pretty good idea of where I was going.

     We arrived at StoryCorps about 15 minutes early, as the website advised.  We were greeted by Stephanie, who was extremely nice.  She gave us some paperwork to fill out, mostly contact information, and chatted with us before going into the recording room.  She made sure we knew a little bit about the mission of StoryCorps and how our recording might be used in the future: stored at the Library of Congress and possibly used on the radio. If we do end up on the radio, StoryCorps will notify us.  We also had the option of opting out of sharing all together and simply taking home a copy of the recording, with all other copies destroyed.

      Once settled at the microphones, Stephanie explained the process: first, a sound check and a reminder to face the microphones when talking (which also had Mom and I facing each other). The recording would start with me, as I introduced myself, giving the date, location and the name of my interviewee; then my mom would do the same. At that point I would ask my first question and we would talk for 40 minutes. Stephanie would remain in the room and signal us when there were 10 and 5 minutes remaining, then give the "wrap up" signal when time was up. If she felt it necessary, Stephanie would also ask questions.

   I had given Mom a list of questions that I planned to ask a few weeks ago, so that she would feel more prepared to answer them. We had talked a little bit about each topic, though not enough to make our conversation sound rehearsed or prevent her from giving me any new stories.

     We talked about memories from mom's childhood, from the cold war and the Cuban Missile Crises and John F Kennedy's assassination, to women's changing roles in society, to the Vietnam War.  For the most part, the experience ran very smoothly as we went from topic to topic. I forgot what additional questions I wanted to ask near the end, but came up with a new topic after a moment. I think I was nervous about running over time and my brain kind of stopped for a minute. Stephanie only asked a question once, at the very end, to ask about what sort of activities and social events mom took part in as a child. It was a great question and mom had an
interesting answer that I appreciated hearing.  When we were done, Stephanie complimented mom on her answers, saying that she gave great details without needing to be prompted. I thought mom did an awesome job!

     As a copy of our interview was burned onto a CD, our photos were taken and then we signed a release form.  In a few weeks we'll be emailed a unique interview number for our recording at the Library of Congress.  If we're ever in DC, we'll be able to listen to our story at the LoC.  And while the StoryCorps experience is free, everyone is encouraged to make a donation, which we did.  As an added bonus, we also received free admission to the Atlanta History Center. We'd already paid for our visit today, so we received a free invitation for another day.

     All together, our visit to StoryCorps Atlanta was a great experience.  I'm really glad that Mom and I did this, and I would encourage others to do it too.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

My sister and I did this several years ago, also in Atlanta. She interviewed me. We both enjoyed the experience. I wish my mother was here to interview.


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