StoryCorps launched on October 24, 2003, in Grand Central Terminal in New York City. It was admittedly something of a crazy idea: put a recording booth in the middle of one of the busiest train stations in the world, then invite pairs of people to come in and interview each other about the most important moments in their lives.
But the idea worked, the project caught on, and StoryCorps has since spread swiftly across the country. In just six years, StoryCorps has recorded 30,000 interviews with more than 50,000 participants. Determined to collect the widest-possible array of American voices, they’ve traveled to cities, towns and hamlets across all fifty states. Along the way, they’ve drawn participants from every imaginable background — every race and ethnicity, occupation, and age. Despite this amazing diversity of voices, however, the individual stories they’ve collected have taught us that as a nation we have far more in common than divides us.
Participating in StoryCorps could not be easier: You invite a loved one — a parent, a sibling, a friend, a neighbor, anyone you choose — to one of StoryCorps‘ recording sites. There, you’re met by a trained facilitator, who greets you and explains the interview process. You’re then brought into a quiet recording room and seated across from your interview partner, each of you in front of a microphone. The facilitator hits “record” on a pair of CD burners, and you have a 40-minute conversation. (Most people ask the sorts of questions you’ll find in the “Favorite StoryCorps Questions” list on the StoryCorp website.) At the end of the session, two CDs have been recorded.
You keep one copy, and the second goes to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. There, it will be preserved for generations to come, so that someday your great great great-grandchildren will be able to hear the voice and stories of your grandfather, your mother, your best friend — whomever you chose to honor with a StoryCorps interview.
Many participants see their session as a chance to leave a legacy. They use the time to talk about the most important people in their lives, to remember the best and worst moments they’ve lived through, to pass on wisdom they’ve gleaned. Topics are broached that rarely get addressed in everyday conversation. It may come as no great surprise that memories of parents often feature prominently in StoryCorps recordings. The facilitators, who have been present at each of the thirty thousand interviews to date, report that even participants who are 100 years old — or older — will spend time remembering (and often crying about) their mothers and fathers. Indeed, many StoryCorps conversations start with reflections on our first and often most consequential bond — with Mom.
Across the country, thousands upon thousands of people have interviewed their mothers through StoryCorps. All types of mothers have shared their stories: single moms, working moms, moms with one child, moms with a dozen or more children, mothers who adopted children, mothers who lost children, and more. These stories remind us of the unflagging hard work and singular devotion required of moms, attributes that have too often been overlooked and underappreciated.