Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Great Thanksgiving Listen 2019

This week the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving, when people gather together in appreciation of their families and friends.  And as a genealogist or family historian, this is a particularly special time because all those family members and friends are gathered together in one spot, making it the perfect time to sit down and share stories, one of the most precious things you can collect.

In 2008, StoryCorps, a nonprofit oral history project begun in 2003, launched the National Day of Listening, when Americans are encouraged to record the stories of family members, friends, and community members.  StoryCorps designated the Friday after Thanksgiving as the Day of Listening as a deliberate contrast to the commercial perspective of Black Friday.  This year the event has been rebranded as The Great Thanksgiving Listen, with a tag of #TheGreatListen (plus the organization has a new logo!).  And if you pledge ahead of time to participate, you will receive e-mails during the week to prepare you with ideas and tools.

Set aside time this Friday to interview a relative or friend and record that person's story.  Use a mobile phone, digital camera, videocamera, cassette tape, the StoryCorps app, or whatever you have handy.  Write it down if you have to!  (StoryCorps does have recommendations for questions, equipment, and resources for people to conduct their own interviews, since you have time to plan ahead.)  If you are with more than one family member, make it a family event and have multiple interviews.  Save those family stories and share them with other family members.  Make sure your family's and friends' stories are not forgotten.

After Thanksgiving, if you have time and are in one of the right locations, StoryCorps has recording booths in some cities in the United States and also conducts mobile tours, where people can come and record interviews.  These must be reserved ahead of time.  One of the benefits of doing a StoryCorps interview is that the recording is preserved in the Library of Congress with the rest of the collection.

StoryCorps has several specific "initiatives" focused on oral histories from particular segments of the population.  Visit the site to learn about the Stonewall Outloud (LGBTQ), Memory Loss, Military Voices (service members), and Griot (black Americans) initiatives, in addition to others.

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