Partnering with the community to share oral histories

As part of my ideaLab work this past month, I have been exploring relationships with potential community partners to launch an oral histories project. On Wednesday, I met with Dianna Huckstein and Michelle Horazdovsky at Brecon Village, part of the Evangelical Homes of Michigan. We talked about using ipadio.com‘s technology and local volunteers to collect audio recordings of residents at Brecon Village, a retirement community located in Saline, sharing their life experiences, insights, and thoughts and feelings about major moments in history that they lived through.

I came to the meeting only hoping to be able to interview some of the residents there and taking their photos. I thought it would be a lot of work on my part and I didn’t know how I would find the time, but it was something I was determined to do. I was pleasantly surprised, however, at their enthusiasm for the project and willingness to totally take it over by not only finding people interested in sharing their stories, but volunteers who would interview residents and members of a photo club who could take their photographs. All I, or a member of my staff, would have to do is go to the ipadio.com account, grab the embed code and get the photo from Brecon Village, and then upload both on our website under our Podcast category. Brecon Village will be able to feature the content on its website, as well, sharing the stories from residents in their 70s, 80s and 90s who have lived through important moments in history and who have led interesting lives, from traveling the world to running major companies.

We talked about organizing chats around themes, such as changes in industry and innovation witnessed over the years, major moments in history, hobbies/collections, world travels, faith/spirituality, leadership, lifestyle and work/career.

We also talked about featuring “celebrity” interviewers at times, such as the mayor, school superintendent, local radio personalities, community leaders, educators and local business owners.

The plan is for Dianna and Michelle to round up three people by early this week for me to interview on Friday. They will flesh out the best theme to base the interview on and I will do a little research before prepping my questions. I’ll first meet the residents, so they feel comfortable with the whole process, and then call them, using my ideaLab iPhone, which will enable me to use ipadio.com. The entire interview will be recorded and available as soon as we hang up. Once everyone sees how it’s done, we can start recruiting and training volunteers and celebrity interviewers.

My goal is to expand this project to include other retirement communities in Washtenaw County. To this end, I met with Sara Wedell of Chelsea District Library, who is working on a similar project using video, rather than audio, for the library’s website. She shared contacts at Chelsea Retirement Community, Silver Maples retirement community and Chelsea Senior Center. Chelsea Standard Editor Erica McClain will take the lead on making it happen in Chelsea.

I am also in touch with Alan Caldwell of Senior Helpers to build a partnership in Ann Arbor.

Here’s an example of an interview one of our former editors conducted with actor Jeff Daniels of Chelsea using ipadio.com.

Check out the ipadio.com app for the iPhone. I used it this morning and it worked just like a recorder. Loved it. Easier than recording the phone conversation. Check out my first interview using the app.

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