StoryCorps on its way to (virtually) collect local residents’ stories

FAR WEST TEXAS — “StoryCorps is an oral history project based on the premise that everybody’s story matters,” says Elise Pepple, the general manager of Marfa Public Radio. The local radio station is teaming up with StoryCorps to collect stories from far and wide across West Texas, and the first step is introducing the organization to local residents.

On November 17, a virtual open house invites residents to hear more about StoryCorps and how the group plans to safely record stories from Big Bend residents remotely.

At the beginning of the year, the plan was to have a StoryCorps airstream mobile unit come to Marfa. But the physical tour had to be canceled, so the event took on a new form.

“In person when you’d show up, there’d be a facilitator who would help you record and help facilitate the conversation,” says Pepple. “What they’ve done is make that virtual.”

There are perks to the event going online, too. No one in West Texas will have to travel to Marfa to tell their tales. “Now that it’s virtual, anyone anywhere in Far West Texas can participate as long as they have access to an internet connection.”

The nonprofit will virtually visit West Texas from December 2 to December 19 as the last stop on its tour. StoryCorps has collected over 80,000 interviews with everyday people, and those who contribute stories from this area will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

MPR and StoryCorps will collect 75 interviews with area residents, and the station will air a selection of them at a later time, but you don’t need a heroic journey or harrowing tale to make the cut.

“Anyone can sign up to have a conversation, and what this usually looks like is someone might have a grandma who has amazing stories about growing up and they sign up to interview their grandma,” says Pepple. “Someone could have a really special friendship or know someone they think of as their hero. A couple might have a love story,” she says. “It can really be almost any kind of relationship.”

In Alaska, Pepple did a recording series that brought StoryCorps to a town with 300 people; almost half the town participated, she says. In terms of who it could be in Far West Texas, “It’s for anyone living here. Newcomers, old timers, residents of Presidio, residents of Midland, residents of Marfa, residents of Terlingua.”

“There are some areas that a lot of people will focus on — a friend, parent, grandparent, a significant other, talking about types of work, about faith or religion, heritage, and then some people use the interview to talk about a loved one who has passed.”

“Really, it’s about the big questions that matter,” says Pepple. “The things that are the heart of a meaty conversation: tell me what you’re most proud of, who has been most important to you, one of your happiest memories, what you’re grateful for, tell me about hard times you’ve had.”

Most of all, Pepple says the station wants to celebrate the stories of people in West Texas.

RSVP at https://storycorps.org/openhouse/ to the StoryCorps Virtual Open House on Wednesday, November 17th at 5 p.m. to learn more.


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