The national project to help people record stories has come to Houston. StoryCorps has been recording interviews since 2003 and is now listening to people in the Bayou City. Houston Public Radio’s Capella Tucker takes us inside StoryCorps’ mobile booth that travels the country.
“So this is just the photo screen. We take photos of every participant.”
Eliza Bettinger is the Senior Coordinator for the StoryCorps Mobile Booth Team.Behind the photo screen are two doors that lead to the recording booth.
“The doors are closed everything else kind of fades away.”
The silver AirStream trailer has a sound proof room with two benches on either side of a table and two microphones. In between the microphones sits a box of tissues.
“Those get a fair bit of use. There’s just something about having, just really focusing on talking about, talking to someone you care about, about some of the most important times of your life. There’s tears of happiness and tears of sadness that get cried in here.”
Bettinger says StoryCorps’ mission is to create the largest oral history archive of ordinary people.
“All these interviews are being collected in the Library Congress. They are all indexed by subject and biographical information. Facilitators are keeping a log as they are listening to the interview about what’s talked about when.”
StoryCorps to date has recorded about ten-thousand interviews and the goal is to collect a quarter of a million by 2015. StoryCorps has four recording facilities, two of them are mobile booths. Over the next three weeks, half the interviews will be Houstonians talking to each other.
“In every city we go to the other half of our interviews we work with community organizations. And in this case in Houston, our outreach is focused on Katrina, Hurricane Katrina Evacuees. Because we feel like we are taking a snapshot of life in the early 21st century, we try to capture voices of people who are affected by the major events.”
Other initiatives include recording interviews of survivors of 9-11 and Iraq war veterans. Outside the booth Mayor Bill White’s wife Andrea is getting ready to interview her mother-in-law.
“As a novelist I know everybody’s got there story. So Katrina or not, I’m looking forward to those, but also to those like my mother-in-law who just are telling us stories about ages gone by.”
The Mayor’s mother, Gloria White, says she and her daughter-in-law, like so many people, get caught up in the day to day demands of life, that stopping to reflect on a family’s history sometimes gets lost.
“This interview I think is extremely important. We tend to be too busy to do things and this is a valuable opportunity to express some of those things before they completely vanish. So much of what I know is gone, but you can trigger memories.”
The StoryCorps mobile unit is parked outside the front doors of the Museum of Natural Science until February third. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.