Story Corps

Baltimore’s street corner astronomer. A man who sold more than a million beers to baseball fans during his 43-year career as a vendor at Orioles games. The Baltimore artist Amy Sherald, whose portrait of Michelle Obama sits in the National Portrait Gallery. 

These are a few among many Baltimoreans who have had their life stories captured by StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization that has created the largest collection of human voices ever recorded. Starting next month, Baltimore residents will have the chance to record even more.

StoryCorps is returning to Baltimore from April 28 to May 29, and for the first time, people can record their stories in a “virtual recording booth” that helps story-tellers in distant locations to connect remotely, joined and guided by a StoryCorps facilitator – who will also be remote.

The StoryCorps Mobile Tour will be operating in the city in partnership with WYPR. 

“Their mission is to record the story of our lives, really,” said Andy Bienstock, Vice President and Program Director at WYPR. 

StoryCorps conceptualized the virtual recording booth in the last year. “We’re excited to work with it,” said Bienstock. “It’s just a different feel, but everything is different since last March,” he said. 

The StoryCorps Mobile Tour began in 2005, when StoryCorps converted an Airstream trailer into a traveling recording studio. The Mobile Tour travels to cities and towns across the country, including Baltimore in 2006 and 2016. 

With permission of the participants, a digital copy of the 40-minute recording session is archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps may also share excerpts through its weekly NPR broadcast, books, digital platforms, or animated shorts. 

There are currently 85,000 facilitated interviews – those recorded by a trained StoryCorps facilitator using StoryCorps equipment – in the Library of Congress, according to the American Folklife Center. There are an additional 225,000 user-uploaded interviews. 

Many Baltimore stories can be found in the StoryCorps online archivetwelve Baltimore stories have made it on NPR’s Morning Edition, and five have been featured on the StoryCorps podcast. 

StoryCorps was founded in 2003 by documentary producer and MacArthur Fellow Dave Isay, and has recorded 600,000 Americans so far.

“StoryCorps tells an authentic American story—that we are a people defined by small acts of courage, kindness, and heroism,” said Isay in a statement. 

Isay recently launched a new campaign, One Small Step. The campaign is intended to start conversations between people of different backgrounds. The effort pairs two strangers with different political perspectives to talk and get to know each other. 

“One Small Step is an effort to remind the country of the humanity in all of us—even those we disagree with politically,” the project’s website states.   

In addition to Baltimore, the StoryCorps Mobile Tour has upcoming visits in Little Rock, AR and the Shenandoah Valley. The tour recently visited Marfa, TX, Boston, MA, and Jackson, MS. 

WYPR will host an open house on April 7 at 4pm to provide information on StoryCorps, the virtual recording booth format, and how to make reservations. Registration for the webinar can be completed here. Reservations to record your story using the virtual recording booth will be available on April 14 at wypr.org.