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Oral Histories Recorded For National Archives:

StoryCorps, the continuing national storytelling project now entering its fifth year, has set up its mobile recording studio housed in a silver Airstream trailer at the north end of the Third Street Promenade (at Wilshire Boulevard) through December 8.

The project affords Americans from all walks of life the opportunity to interview each other in pairs – oftentimes friends or family members – in 40-minute sessions with the assistance of a trained facilitator who also handles the technical aspects of the recording. Participants receive a CD of their interview, and, with their permission, a second copy is sent to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

“We’re delighted to bring StoryCorps back to downtown Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, where it was such a success last year,” said Ruth Seymour, General Manager of KCRW, which is co-hosting the local program with the Bayside District Corporation. “KCRW listeners will share in the joyous, tragic, and poignant moments that make up their lives,” she added. Bayside’s Executive Director Kathleen Rawson said, “We think Santa Monica is a terrific location to collect a varied set of American stories.”

On this visit to Southern California, StoryCorps has added a stop at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, where the Airstream studio will be collecting stories from January 10 through February 2, 2008.

The project began with a recording studio in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal in October 2003. The mobile studio has been criss-crossing the country since 2005. “In all, more than 15,000 interviews have been recorded involving more than 28,000 participants,” according to David Isay, the award-winning radio documentary producer and StoryCorps creator who addressed a Santa Monica audience at Borders Books on Sunday, November 11. Selected interviews are broadcast nationally on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, and KCRW is airing excerpts from the approximately 250 interviews expected to be collected on this Southern California visit (Mondays at 4:44 p.m.).

Isay spoke to the Borders crowd as part of the promotion of his just-released book of excerpted interviews from the continuing project, Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project (Penguin Press 2007). He stressed the need to shift from a celebrity-obsessed society to a country that values the stories of everyday people.

On November 11, Isay played audio excerpts from interviews included in the book, including KCRW Volunteer Coordinator Connie Alvarez interviewing her mother Blanca, both of whom were present that afternoon. He also played from the interview of George Caywood, also present. “StoryCorps tells people that they matter and will not be forgotten,” Isay told the group, and the examples that he offered certainly illustrated his point.

Studs Terkel, the legendary author of oral history books including Hard Times, says of Isay’s StoryCorps book: “It’s a celebration of the lives of the uncelebrated. In our world today people feel helpless, but once they speak of their lives they become alive! That is what our country is all about. Never has a book been more timely or necessary.”

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