StoryCorps celebrates new ‘flagship’ home at the Atlanta History Center

By Maria Saporta

The founder of StoryCorps came to Atlanta Wednesday evening to celebrate the opening of the “flagship” home for the ambitious oral storytelling initiative.

“We are here to launch StoryCorps Atlanta 2.0,” said Dave Isay, founder and president of StoryCorps.

StoryCorps, which has been taping stories of Atlantans out of  StoryBooth at Public Broadcasting Atlanta’s WABE since October, 2009, has relocated to the Atlanta History Center. The StoryBooth studio is now based in the Franklin Miller Garrett library, named after the infamous Atlanta historian.

Dave Isay

Dave Isay

“If you are going to do something that’s going to represent the city, it’s got to be the best, “ said Milton Clipper, president and CEO of Public Broadcasting Atlanta. “There are only three permanent StoryCorps sites in the country, and I thought Atlanta ought to be the best. I hope it becomes the standard for StoryCorps around the country.”

PBA and the Atlanta History Center are contributing $50,000 apiece to the Atlanta venture over the next three years, and StoryCorps is contributing the rest.

Sheffield Hale, president and CEO of the Atlanta History Center, said the studio will be used by StoryCorps two days a week, and then it will be available for the History Center’s use the rest of the week. Also, StoryCorps offices also are housed at the History Center’s McElreath Hall.

Isay said StoryCorps started in 2003 in a StoryBooth in Grand Central Terminal in New York. The idea is to record a 45-minute conversation between two people. Often times, a three-minute clip of those conversations is aired on public radio stations across the country.

It became a national project two years later, and it now has permanent studios in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta as well as mobile booths that travel the country. So far, there have been more than 45,000 interviews that have been recorded.

All the recorded interviews are housed at the Library of Congress as a way to capture stories of this time in human history.

In Atlanta, StoryCorps is recording about 900 interviews a year, and it has already done about 2,500 interviews. Facilitators help coordinate the process.

During his presentation, Isay played several StoryCorps clips — some funny, some sad, all poignant.

Yolanda King and Maria

Yolanda King and Maria (Photo by Sue Ross)

In the interest of full disclosure, my dear friend, Bill Bolling (who I have adopted as my brother) and I did a StoryCorps interview a while back.

A three-minute recording aired on Jan. 15 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday about my memories of King and my friendship with his oldest daughter, Yolanda King. It seems only fitting to post that interview in this story today on the 45th anniversary on the eve of King’s assassination.

“We are collecting the wisdom of humanity,” Isay said. “There are stories all around us. Someday we want for StoryCorps to be part of the fabric of this country. We are telling stories of our shared humanity.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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