Everybody has a story to share.

History will record the actions of the powerful, famous and larger than life. But even people who think their lives have been mundane have extraordinary things to say.

Capturing the details of everyday people is the mission of StoryCorps, a national organization dedicated to preserving oral tradition.

“We ask people who might not necessarily show up in the history books to share their stories,” said Morgan Feigal-Stickles, site manager for StoryCorps’ MobileBooth. “Then it’s sent to an archive where it will be available for future generations to get these firsthand accounts of what life was like in the U.S. today.”

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Since it was founded in 2003, StoryCorps has archived more than 70,000 personal histories. Now, local residents will be able to share their life story and have it preserved for generations at the Library of Congress.

StoryCorps has set up its MobileBooth in Bloomington through June 23. The converted Airstream trailer now serves as an intimate recording studio where people can talk about their own experiences.

“It’s powerful for people to think about the opportunity they have to leave this record,” Feigal-Stickles said. “Their great-great grandkids can come back and listen to what their voice sounded like, this is what they found joy in, this is what they were afraid of.”

StoryCorps was founded by documentary producer and author Dave Isay, who started the program in order to capture the kindness, courage and heroism found in the everyday American story.

Since that time, the nonprofit organization has stopped in cities and towns in all 50 states in order to work with people and record the details of their lives.

Officials have created special oral history projects, such as the September 11th Initiative, to help families memorialize the stories of those lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Military Voices Initiative documents the lives of people who have served since Sept. 11.

In addition, a weekly podcast and National Public Radio program helps share these recordings with the general public.

“By strengthening connections between people and building an archive that reflects the rich diversity of American voices, we hope to build StoryCorps into an enduring institution that will touch the lives of every American family,” said Isay in a statement.

StoryCorps’ stop in Bloomington is in conjunction with city leaders and WFIU, Bloomington’s NPR station. The station will use some of the recorded sessions in their own programming, operations director John Bailey said.

“This will be a chance for our listeners to hear tales they’ve never heard their neighbors tell. And, for some people, it will be an opportunity to capture the voices of their loved ones on tape for posterity. StoryCorps represents the essence of public broadcasting: it is about listening and understanding.”

The primary goal of StoryCorps is to capture oral histories from people. But at the same time, the organization also wants to also support the power of listening, Feigal-Stickles said.

During recording sessions, two people who are close to each other — maybe relatives, dear friends or spouses — get the chance to have a conversation together.

A facilitator at the booth will help keep the interview moving, but the conversation can be about anything they want.

They are encouraged to ask more significant questions that might not come up in everyday discussions, but have been impactful in their lives.

“We hope this experience helps them be able to do this more in their lives after they live,” Feigal-Stickles said.

People who want to take part can make an appointment through the StoryCorps website, or by calling a 24-hour reservation line.

The first round of recordings quickly filled up, so those interested in taking part should make a reservation when the second round opens at 10 a.m. today, Feigal-Stickles said.

Participants are brought into the MobileBooth studio at their designated time, sit down in front of the microphone and have a 40-minute conversation.

People are encouraged to come the booth with an idea of what they want to talk about, though not have it completely scripted out, Feigal-Stickles said.

At the same time, lists of prepared questions will assist those who take part tell their stories, if they need a little help.

“If people come in not knowing completely what they want to talk about, that’s OK. We can give them these questions and help them,” Feigal-Stickles said.

After the session is completed, people will receive a CD copy of the interview, and with permission from the participant, another copy is sent to the archives at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

“Just having these firsthand accounts is so important. Historians love having these primary sources, and so as far as a resource for future generations, all of these stories are invaluable,” Feigal-Stickles said.

At a glance

StoryCorps MobileBooth

What: A traveling recording studio set up to record people’s personal histories through the StoryCorps program. Recorded stories will be preserved at the Library of Congress.

When: Through June 23

Where: Showers Plaza 1A along the B-Line Trail, 401 N. Morton St., Bloomington

How to sign up: Reservations need to be made in order to schedule time in the MobileBooth. Appointments are being taken starting at 10 a.m. today by calling (800) 850-4406 or going to storycorps.org/reservations.

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.