Collecting stories has become a really exciting endeavor lately. While writing down people's stories has been done since time immemorial, on stone tablets, clay tablets and papyrus scrolls, the modern technology allows more people to record oral and written histories than ever before.
Everyone can now write, make an audio or video recording, and publish their life stories. We can tap into the wisdom of the elders and preserve their memories for posterity. The history will not be written only by winners, and, gasp, by semi-automated textbook-writing committees, but by many, many eye-witnesses of the events, each bringing in something personal, a slightly different perspective, a new anecdote, a curious fact or a piece of trivia.
It is really exciting to see how many people are investing much of their time and energy on making modern technologies available for recording history.
For instance, Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties's REACH OUT TO SENIORS campaign is collecting stories by and about local senior citizens.
Dick Gordon's new NPR radio show, The Story lets people tell their stories on the air, and saves them as podcasts on their WUNC page.
StoryCorps makes it easy for everyone to record and publish audio interviews. Log on to their site and find out if a StoryBooth will be close to you soon.
The Remembering Site and Our Story make it easy to publish your writings and pictures and helps you write your stories and biographies.
Finally, many people have used standard blogging platforms (as well as services like Flickr) to write their stories, publish their podcasts, photographs and videos. As the number of blogs increases exponentially, it is hard to keep track of the break-down of blog types, but I suspect that most blogs are still of the 'personal journal' type, .i.e. storyblogging.
Here in NC, Anton Zuiker is spearheading the effort to get people to record their memories and stories on blogs. Most definitely check out his Storyblogging blog for news and updates and for information on how to get involved.
What I am really interested in are travelogues - stories of people who have been abroad and stayed there for a while, not as tourists, but integrated into the local communities, perhaps doing some work there. Scientists doing fieldwork. Soldiers stationed abroad. Doctors Without Borders surely have stories to tell. Anyone who has ever experienced jet-lag and culture-shock.
A friend of mine is about to leave for Honduras as a part of the World Camp for Kids program. I tried to warm her up to the idea that many people would be interested in reading the stories about her experiences there and that a blog is the easiest, chepaest, quickest and most reliable medium to do so. I did not have much time, but I hope that the idea lingers in her mind and perhaps, one day, becomes a reality.
Another friend went to Ghana over two summers. The first summer, she did the research on the local women's knowledge and understanding of AIDS and attitudes towards sex. The second summer, she utilized the results of her research to work on HIV/AIDS and sex education for local women. After graduation, she went to Lesotho for a year to do the same thing - education of local women about AIDS.
While she was gone, it was diffult to stay in touch. I thought a million times how great it would be if she had a blog that she could update every now and then, whenever she could get online. I'd like to hear her stories about the first impressions of Africa, the biggest culture shocks, the most interesting people she got to know there, the most common (as well as most surprising or outlandish) misperceptions women have about AIDS and about sex, about difference between Ghana and Lesotho, about changed perceptions on America and her own life, and much, much more.
I wish she could have run something like The Nata village blog, or, more ambitiously, the Blogswana project, in which one person in the West and one in Africa are paired and blog for each other about Africa, AIDS and blogging [Errata: one healthy and one AIDS pateint - both Botswanans - will be paired up and blogging together].
Perhaps it is not too late. She will be back in NC in a couple of weeks. I'll try to persuade her to write her stories now - it is never too late and it does not need to be "fresh". Better late than never.
Good memories, well written, are what is important. I'll try to get her to start a blog and if she does I will link to it to let you know. Or, alternatively, I could get her to write a guest-post here every now and then and tap into my ready-made pool of regular readers.
She is starting her graduate studies in fall - in Public Health - perhaps she can become a MedBlogger! In the meantime, i.e., during the summer, she is looking for some kind of a job here in North Carolina (she has some laboratory experience as well), and if you have something to offer, you can let me know and I will let her know.
So, do you have a cool story to tell?