Like StoryCorps, but with more beer.
June 3, 2011 1:01 PM   Subscribe

At our upcoming family reunion (the first in a good seven years), my mother wants to run an audio "story booth" where family members can come and tell stories to be preserved for posterity. Can y'all think of any tips -- before, during and after -- to help this run smoothly and get the most interesting stories?

Thankfully, I should point out, I am a journalist with recording and editing experience, so I plan to share my stuff. But I also don't necessarily want to spend the whole weekend in the back parlor.

Attendees: maybe 60. Three branches, mostly a generation of boomers and their 20ish-30ish kids. One branch is coming from Arizona, but the other two know each other fairly well and have frequent contact within their own families. Unfortunately, only one or two "elders" will be there, but they should talk enough for the rest of us.

Setting: the ancestral manor on the edge of town, so I think we can probably leave it set up in a quiet, protected room.

Equipment: MacBook Pro (with a good internal mic) and iPad 2 (also has a good internal mic), as well as an Olympus digital recorder with a USB for quick uploading. I'd probably give a digital recorder to my less tech-savvy mom. Tech-savvier uncles will likely help.

My mom would like to start with a list of common questions/stories (e.g. "the time we went to the Petrified Forest" or "when we left Joel on the side of the road") and get different people to tell their versions or fill in the gaps.

1) There's a big gap between my mom's generation and mine; sitting around and talking about dead people is all. they. do. What can we do to focus the younger folks? We don't have as many shared experiences, and I also think we have a hard time establishing our own identities in the face of their strong generational culture.

2) What could be some good ways to share it once I've gotten it cleaned up -- cds? a blog?

3) Any tips (especially for people who are NOT me) for keeping the stories on track? We are serial meanderers. (As if you didn't know that.)

4) Any other ideas for more compelling themes or ways to edit/reshape it in the end so people get the most out of it?

Other random ideas gratefully appreciated. Thanks!
posted by Madamina to Human Relations (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
To make the most of the generational divide, pair everyone up - an elder and a younger, and make the tech savvier one of the duo drive the recording session and the sharing.

To keep them on track, have them interview each other and hopefully you can capture a dynamic as well as stories - it will be lovely to have laughter on record.

Give each side of the pair a couple of guidelines for questions - best memory, what were you like when you were my age, how did my father drive you crazy when you were a teenager, who do you see in the family as being most like you and why, we all have this funny nose don't we? etc.
posted by sestaaak at 1:17 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That's a neat idea! How would you do the division, since (for example) I don't know much about the Arizonans -- should we just put all of the willing boomers in one hat and all of the willing grandkids in the other and see what happens, regardless of family branch?
posted by Madamina at 1:25 PM on June 3, 2011

Do you have photos that they could describe or that could spark a memory? That way, you've got something to cut away to, when you need to edit, if you want to make a DVD or an online something or other?

Most people are good at telling you what happened at the place, at the event, etc.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:47 PM on June 3, 2011

NPR has a how to a dedicated show and how-to guide for this.
posted by bananafish at 1:50 PM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yes, I like the putting tech volunteers in one hat and the rest in another. And it'll be ok to pick again if you end up with two people who know each other very well.

As for questions, I've gotten really good mileage out of these: What was your first car? When you got married, what was your first home like? (you get the idea). Also, you could ask about certain dates in history and ask where they were, etc.

The photos are a great idea too.
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:51 PM on June 3, 2011

i love the ideas suggested above!

here is storycorp's diy guide, which may be useful, as well.
posted by anya32 at 1:52 PM on June 3, 2011

doh! bananafish has faster fingers than preview :) sorry for the duplicate!
posted by anya32 at 1:54 PM on June 3, 2011

Plenty of drink.
posted by zadcat at 2:15 PM on June 3, 2011

Don't forget to give everyone plenty of advance notice. More that is interesting and well thought out will surface if everyone gets a chance to mull a bit.
posted by bearwife at 11:17 PM on June 3, 2011

Susan Kitchens has done a whole lot of this, might be resources you connect with at her Family Oral History site.
posted by straw at 9:08 AM on June 4, 2011

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