High school teachers across the country have asked their students to record a Thanksgiving conversation with an elder or grandparent.
The project is called The Great Thanksgiving Listen, it’s part of the oral history initiative StoryCorps, known for pairing people up and eavesdropping on conversations that may never have happened otherwise.
To participate, people are told to download the StoryCorps app to a tablet or smartphone then use it to record a Thanksgiving conversation. The recording will live on in the Library of Congress.
Fernandina Beach Folklorist Peggy Bulger was the head of the Library’s American Folklife Center in Washington D.C. until she retired three years ago. She says there’s real value in consciously sitting down to have a conversation with a family member.
“These little recordings, I think, will live on in families and be passed down. And say, you know, here’s your great great grandfather talking back, way back in 2015 about what he felt about whatever it is, maybe about the refugee crisis that’s going on right now,” Bulger said. “These kinds of things are important. It’s not just about who is making decisions in Washington and who's running for president. But what do everyday people feel, really.”
Bulger was part of the team responsible for getting StoryCorps conversations archived in the Library of Congress. She says oral history recordings can sometimes be more insightful than history books.
“Say your grandmother, you might have ever asked her about how did she ever meet your grandfather?” Bulger said. "How did she survive during WWII or what happened when Vietnam came along? These kinds of things you listen to in history class, but it’s so impersonal it doesn't make it real.”
Although high school students are being targeted to participate in this project, anyone who wants to can submit a recording to be archived.