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StoryCorps Mobile Tour returns to Wilmington, offering virtual and (safe) in-person interview opportunities

The StoryCorps MobileBooth on Sunday, June 24, 2018, in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
Ryan Dorgan
The StoryCorps MobileBooth on Sunday, June 24, 2018, in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Ten years after their last visit, StoryCorps has returned to Wilmington and is partnering with WHQR to record interviews from our community. They’ll be setting up shop for a month, starting in early September — WHQR News Director Ben Schachtman spoke with Associate Director Danielle Andersen to learn more about the program.

Now in its 17th year, StoryCorps has crisscrossed the country many times. You’ve probably heard some of the interviews on NPR: some are funny, some are sweet, and some are heartbreaking -- and together they’ve formed an intimate mosaic picture of our country.

Starting on September 9th and running through October 8th, the StoryCorps Mobile Tour Wilmington will host interviews at the Harrelson Center, located downtown at Princess and Fourth streets — keep your eyes peeled for the gleaming silver Airstream trailer.

You can find a virtual open house and more info here.

BS: Joining me now to talk more about the program, is Danielle Andersen, associate director for StoryCorps mobile tour. Danielle, thanks for being with us.

DA: Yeah, thanks for having me.

BS: So for people who aren't maybe intimately familiar with this, give us a picture of what is StoryCorps? And what do you guys do?

DA: Yeah, sure. So we are an independent nonprofit, we've been around since 2003. Basically, what we do is we travel the country, and we provide spaces for people to have meaningful conversations with people, they love people, they care about people they are curious to learn more about. And we record those conversations, we give them copies back and we archive them at the Library of Congress.

BS: So what has that been like during the pandemic?

DA: Yeah, as you can imagine, it's been a little tricky. Yes, so we weren't able to actually record in real space with people, we weren't able to invite people into our recording spaces to record. But what we did was we kind of turned our model on its head, and we went into people's homes virtually. So we invited people to record on our virtual recording platform, again, with a partner of their choosing, that could also be in the safety of their own home, our facilitator would meet them online, facilitate the conversation the same way they would in real person, you know, face to face, and then archive it the same way. So we've been working virtually since the onset of the pandemic last year.

BS: Yeah, like, like many of us, we've had to adapt.

DA: Yes, lots of lots of adaptations.

BS: But now you guys are back on the road. And Wilmington is the first stop?

DA: It is and we couldn't be more thrilled about it. I mean, the virtual space has been great. It's allowed us to continue the work we do. It's allowed us to kind of branch out and actually, in some ways, make the recording process more accessible. But we love being in communities with people. We love seeing them face to face and meeting them in person and kind of sitting with them while they record. So we are beyond thrilled.

BS: Yeah, it's hard remote — it's hard to replace that experience.

DA: It really is. It really is.

BS: So for people in the Wilmington area, if they want to get involved, they want to do this. And I should note that this can be two or three people, right?

DA: Yeah, yes, you invite -- it's up to three people. So think about who you might want to have this experience with, like a three person conversation. So you want to interview both of your parents or you have two children and you want to interview them both together. That's great. Otherwise, it does tend to be between two people. But think about what makes the most sense for you who you'd want to do this with.

BS: And if you want to sign up, I know there's a limited number of tickets, but we're going to send them to our website here at wh er yeah.org and that's whqr.org/StoryCorps?

DA: Right. You can learn more there.

BS: Alright, we'll have all that info on the page. Daniel Anderson, thank you so much.

DA: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature.