Make history with an elder by recording an interview

By Karen Cifala

While in Baltimore in 2003 I was privileged to be invited to an introduction of StoryCorps, which is a public service and an opportunity for people to record and preserve the stories of their lives.  I had no idea what to expect but what I found out was an amazing reminder of how much everyone’s story matters.

Please take a moment and visit their website to hear some of the amazing stories recorded by and between families and their loved ones. After a recording session the participants may decide to archive their live recording at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for future generations to hear.

StoryCorps’ is an old oral history tradition with a new twist.  A non-profit organization, StoryCorps mission is to record, preserve and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs.  Founder Dave Isay says “you can find the most amazing stories from regular people, just by taking the time to have a conversation. You can find wisdom and poetry in their words”.  Most people loved to be listened to, and great things can happen when you become a good listener.

Think about the stories that you and siblings tell over family gatherings and how you laugh and the joy it brought.  Those are the stories you need to record.  Or memories that might have been hard to discuss in a younger life, but as you grew older some of the stories leak out no matter how sad or how hard they might have been back then.


History of StoryCorps

2003: StoryCorps is born with the opening of a StoryBooth in Grand Central Terminal in New York.

2005: StoryCorps launches its two MobileBooths from the Library of Congress. Our weekly broadcast debut on NPR’s Morning Edition.

2007: StoryCorps receives a rare Institutional Peabody Award.

2008: StoryCorps’ Griot Initiative becomes the largest collection of African American stories collected in history. We launched the National Day of Listening, an effort to encourage recording with loved ones around the Thanksgiving holiday.

2010: StoryCorps’ first series of Animated Shorts premieres on public television and online.

2012: StoryCorps receives a Peabody Award for animations and audio commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.

2013: StoryCorps celebrates its 10th Anniversary with our inaugural gala, hosted by Stephen Colbert.

2014: StoryCorps launches Outloud, an initiative to collect the stories of LGBTQ people in America.


StoryCorps has made great strides in creating new initiatives since its inauguration in 2002 such as September 11th, Military Voices, and Memory Loss initiatives as well as the Griot initiative that ensures the voices, experiences and life stories of African Americans will be preserved.  The StoryCorps website describes a Groit (pronounced gree-oh) as a storyteller, a position of honor in West African tradition, who hands down family and community history from one generation to another.

There are many ways you can record your story.  One is to catch the Mobile Tour in your area of the US and schedule a reservation. You can call toll free: 1-800-850-4406.  You will have to have ready a preferred date and time, interview partner’s name and contact information, and a valid credit card, even though there is no fee to participate, there is a $50 cancelation fee to cancel within 48 hours. You can also add yourself to the wait list by filling out the online form at for your respective site.

Las Cruces, NM in partnership with KRWG – January 4 – 31, 2016

San Antonio, TX in partnership with Texas Public Radio – February 6 – March 4, 2016

Nashville, TN in partnership with Nashville Public Radio-WPLN – March 11 – April 8, 2016

Washington, DC in partnership with WAMU – April 4 – May 13, 2016

Baltimore, MD in partnership with WYPR – May 19 – June 17, 2016

Providence, RI in partnership with Rhode Island Public Radio – June 30 – July 29, 2016

Colchester, VT in partnership with Vermont Public Radio – August 4 – September 2, 2016

Buffalo, NY in partnership with WBFO – September 4 – October 9, 2016

Pittsburgh, PA in partnership with WESA – October 13 – November 11, 2016

Columbia, SC in partnership with South Carolina Public Radio – November 17 – December 21, 2016


Or you can simply download the mobile app ( either from the App Store or Google Play on your smart phone or ipad.  The app will walk you through the seamless interview process and provide all the necessary tools for a wonderful experience as well as tell you how to record, save and submit to the Library of Congress.  StoryCorps describes this new app as a “an app with a purpose – a way for individuals to connect in a meaningful way with those close to them, and to gain insight into the lives of others.”

Among the many wonderful aspects of StoryCorps there lies the StoryCorps Legacy program that provides people with serious illness of all ages and their families the opportunity to record, preserve and share their stories. These include hospice care, palliative care, and disease-specific centers. To learn more about this partnership call 646-723-7027.

There are many ways to give back to StoryCorps as well by making a donation in your loved one’s name, a gift of stock with tax benefits, bequests and planned gifts and matching corporate gifts.  For more information on this contact Brian Schumann at 646-723-7020 x 39 or bschumann@storycorps.og.

Make this holiday season a special one.  If you can’t record your conversation with a loved one through StoryCorps at least record it on your phone or any other recording device. There are many people that have passed away in my family that I would have loved to have had a recorded conversation with.

Karen Cifala is a SRES Realtor for Remax Roots in Berryville VA.  Her specialty is working with seniors in buying or selling their forever homes.  She can be contacted at 303-817-9374 (cell) or by email: