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On Wednesday morning, two Facilitators from the oral history-collecting nonprofit StoryCorps set up shop in one of our offices to begin recording stories of 36 individuals with strong ties to Madison Children’s Museum. As we end the second day of recordings, it’s evident that we’re building a treasure trove of firsthand accounts that detail the never-before-told history of the museum.
For those not familiar with StoryCorps, you should check out its work. The organization is dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs, and it’s best known for its moving interview excerpts that air on NPR’s “Morning Edition” each Friday. We received the gift of a StoryCorps visit from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as part of our earning the 2011 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, and what a gift it is.
We have completed 12 of the 18 interviews, which pair individuals who share common connections to the museum. On Wednesday, the first interview paired our American Girl Benefit Sale coordinator, Marianne Madar, with two former longtime volunteers who logged thousands of hours together in the sale warehouse in Middleton. The sale is the museum’s largest fundraiser, bringing in a significant portion of money to support the operating budget, and aside from Marianne, it’s run completely by volunteers. Wednesday also featured interviews with former and current board members, major donors, staff members, and exhibit and program collaborators.
Today’s interviews included two museum founders and the consultant who guided them; a couple who helped the museum develop its award-winning “Hmong at Heart” exhibit; an exhibits design consultant and two exhibits staff members; the Benefit Sale’s creator and a longtime volunteer; and our staff’s annual giving coordinator and the co-chair of “Tea and Trains,” the museum’s annual holiday tea.
Tomorrow, Facilitators Katherine Brook and Mariel Gruszko will record the six final 40-minute interviews, including more staff members, exhibit and program collaborators, and past board members and donors.
While we haven’t gotten to listen to the interviews just yet, since each is recorded behind closed doors with just one Facilitator and the interview participants in the room, the museum staff are all very excited to listen to them and celebrate the memories recounted through this monumental oral history project.
Be sure to keep an eye on this blog and on our Facebook and Twitter feeds to hear excerpts from some of the interviews. And let this gift to us be inspiration for you and the children in your life to begin collecting and preserving your own stories. It’s a chance to learn things about each other that you otherwise wouldn’t have known, and for future generations to learn about the past in a different way than opening a traditional textbook.
— Amy Mertz, Communications Coordinator