Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Thoughtful Approach to Preserving Memories

While this blog is often narrowly concerned with preserving the memories of immediate family members, the subject of preserving family stories and individual voices is one that naturally expands outward.  The lives of our loved ones intersect with many others, and their memories and keepsakes may offer valuable contributions to a broader knowledge of our changing world.

Last week, I wrote about how my sister made recordings of my mother’s memories of her childhood and ancestors.  But it didn’t occur to me that this isn’t always a job simply for family members.  Other organizations – such as libraries, historical societies, and community centers – have often taken the lead in soliciting these stories in order to benefit the entire

Joe Da Rold, the Director of the Plainfield (NJ) Public Library, launched a local oral history program in 2007 as a natural outgrowth of the library’s commitment to preserving and honoring local history.  For his previous leadership with history initiatives, Joe was recognized by the New Jersey Historical Commission in 2004 with their Award of Recognition for “outstanding service to public knowledge and preservation of the history of New Jersey.”

Joe’s own involvement with collecting local oral history was sparked by a collaboration with StoryCorps, a national organization which solicited the library’s participation in a project to record the stories of local African-Americans.  This led Joe to develop new collaborations to serve Plainfield, including “Latinos in Conversation” and participation in StoryCorps’ nationwide “Historias” project.  In 2007, Joe received the New Jersey Library Association’s Susan G. Swartzburg Preservation Award, and he is currently the 2010 New Jersey Librarian of the Year.

Over the next week, I’ll be sharing from an interview I conducted with Joe last week that touches on the many ways available to preserve the voices of loved ones, from recording oral histories to encouraging the practice of memoir writing.

© 2010 Lee Price


  1. I love your blog, and your intent. I regret I didn't listen to my dad's tapes sooner and now they are almost unable to be heard.
    Good for you.

  2. Thanks! I like your "Branching Out" blog, too.
    Lots of cool stuff there!

    If you'd like to share more about the problems with your aging tapes, I can forward your concerns to our audio preservation expert. One of our four cassette tapes has a side that is nearly inaudible so this is a subject I'd be happy to explore in more depth.