StoryCorps, the non-profit oral history project that has collected more than 100,000 interviews since 2003, is planning to improve its app and launch community programs after receiving a $600,000 grant from the Knight Foundation.
The new funding means the StoryCorps app, which TechCrunch profiled in April, now has the resources to explore adding new functions. Colleen Ross, StoryCorps’ marketing and communications director, says the organization is looking at ways to integrate communication tools like Skype, Google Hangouts, and Facebook Messenger, so people who live far apart from one another can record interviews with each other.
Other features planned for the next 12 to 18 months include more social tools and optional transcription fields for people to save printable copies of their interviews. A Windows Phone version of the app has already been tested and is tentatively scheduled for release later this year.
Later on, StoryCorps plans to add multiple language support. This will make it easier for people in other countries to use the app, which has been downloaded by more than 200,000 users, for oral history projects.
Before the app’s launch in March, almost all StoryCorps’ interviews were conducted at staffed recording booths in cities across the United States. While its booths, which produce professional quality recordings, represent the classic StoryCorps experience, the app gives hundreds of thousands of people around the world access to the program for personal interviews or larger-scale oral history projects. Groups that have used the app to collect stories include Women@TheTable and the Young African Leaders Initiative Network.
The StoryCorps app is more than just a recording tool. It provides a list of questions and serves as an icebreaker for people who might not have had a sustained, face-to-face conversation (StoryCorps interviews are usually 45 minutes long) in a long time. Many pairs are made up of intergenerational relatives, and a StoryCorps recording gives them a safe context to ask questions that might otherwise seem too sensitive or awkward.
Isay founded StoryCorps twelve years ago to preserve experiences from people who are often overlooked by historians. Recordings made in StoryCorps’ booths are stored in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and app users can also elect to have their interviews preserved in its archives or uploaded to StoryCorps.me.
“The app has enabled StoryCorps to extend our reach to locations beyond where our StoryBooths are located. It has become the tool that we can recommend to the organizations and individuals who ask, ‘Can you bring StoryCorps to my town?’ It extends our capacity where we might not otherwise be able to be present in a community,” says Ross.