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NPR StoryCorps to collect everyday history in Palouse

PULLMAN — Washington State University’s Northwest Public Radio will host StoryCorps, a national initiative to document everyday history and the unique stories of America, when it arrives in Moscow, Idaho, Aug. 25 to collect the stories of Palouse residents as part of the program’s cross-country tour.

This unprecedented project, modeled after the Works Progress Administration projects of the 1930s, will travel to every corner of the United States, instructing and inspiring individuals to record their stories in sound for the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is the largest oral history project ever undertaken, with more than 2,000 stories already collected from the project’s first year and plans to collect more than 250,000 interviews over the next decade.

“This project will provide a valuable historic archive for the people of the Palouse,” said Northwest Public Radio Manager Roger Johnson. “This is a rich region: rich in history, community and landscape. We’re not surprised it was selected from thousands of places around the country.”

Northwest Public Radio will air a selection of the local stories and create special programs around the project. Latah County and Whitman County historical societies are helping to identify interview subjects for the upcoming visit. Selected segments recorded in other StoryCorps locations are already airing nationally on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

The city of Moscow is a key partner in the project. Deena Heath, Moscow Arts Commission director, has secured the booth site near Friendship Square, which is being remodeled to better accommodate downtown events, and StoryCorps will coincide with its opening. “People in Pullman, Moscow and the other communities of this special region have a strong sense of community and a respect for local history,” she said. “We’re pleased that StoryCorps will be our guest and help us celebrate a renewed Friendship Square.”

Two StoryCorps MobileBooths began their national tour May 19 in Washington, D.C. From there, the MobileBooths set out in different directions across the country–one taking an eastern route and the other covering the Western states.The inaugural tour will last a year and stop at nearly 45 cities. During the first six months of the tour, the StoryCorps MobileBooths will visit 25 cities and 16 states. The StoryCorps mobile recording booth, contained in a specially-outfitted Airstream trailer, will be parked on Main Street in Moscow near Friendship Square until Sept. 5.

StoryCorps opened its first StoryBooth, a freestanding soundproof recording studio, in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal in October 2003, and in June 2005, opened its second StoryBooth at the site of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Over the course of the 10-year project, StoryCorps plans to open StoryBooths, both mobile and stationary, across the country.

At the MobileBooth, people participate in pairs–oftentimes friends or loved ones–and one interviews the other.A trained facilitator guides the participants through the interview process and handles the technical aspects of the recording.At the end of a 40-minute session, the participants walk away with a CD of their interview. With their permission, copies will be archived at Latah County and Whitman County Historical Societies and at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. This collection will eventually grow into an oral history of America.

“Over the past year and a half, we’ve seen the profound effect StoryCorps has had on the lives of those who have participated in the project, and we’ve seen the power that these stories have had on the millions who have heard them on NPR and on the Web,” said Dave Isay, project leader and award-winning NPR documentary producer. “We believe that listening is an act of love. StoryCorps will engage communities, teach participants to become better listeners, foster intergenerational communication and help Americans appreciate the strength in the stories of everyday people they find all around them.”

Individuals can visit www.storycorps.net to learn more about the project. Or go to Northwest Public Radio at http://www.nwpr.org.

This project is sponsored by Northwest Public Radio, the city of Moscow, NPR, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Saturn automobile company.

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