StoryCorps App Plans Ambitious Oral History Project For Thanksgiving

Over the past 12 years, oral history project StoryCorps has collected interviews with over 100,000 people. Most of these recordings are stored at the Library of Congress, creating what StoryCorps claims is the “largest single collection of human voices ever gathered.” Now the non-profit hopes to double that number in just one weekend during “The Great Thanksgiving Listen.”

StoryCorps is working with high schools to spread the word about the event, which encourages students to interview their grandparents or other elders using the StoryCorps app. The organization hopes that “The Great Thanksgiving Listen,” along with other similar initiatives, will allow thousands of memories from people who are underrepresented in traditional archives to be saved.

It may be hard to remember while wading through an endless deluge of selfies and Candy Crush invitations, but smartphones represent a valuable leap forward in the democratization of history. In the future, the plethora of photos, status updates, and metadata will contribute valuable information to anyone hoping to understand daily life in the early 21st century (and beyond).

The StoryCorps app, which launched in March, is important because it goes beyond capturing snippets of information. The app not only helps facilitate interviews by suggesting questions, but also uploads recordings directly to the Library of Congress, making StoryCorps accessible to people who live far away from its booths.

Other initiatives by StoryCorps include the Griot Initiative, a joint project with the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture; the Historias Initiative, which focuses on interviews with Latino Americans; and LGBTQ program OutLoud.

StoryCorps’ app was developed with a $1 million TED prize and has received an additional $600,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation.