For several decades now, oral historians, ethnographers, and community storytellers have been using audio diaries to capture, preserve, and share people’s lived experiences.
Through first-person narratives, perhaps no other recording medium or technique comes as close to revealing the intimate details of our daily lives among families, friends, and our communities. The Social Voice Project is looking forward to developing an audio diaries project this year in Beaver County and beyond.
For the past few months, West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Inside Appalachia Folkways Project has cultivated a connection between two groups of people thousands of miles away — high schools in Lincoln County, West Virginia and in Merthyr Tydfill, Wales.
Appalachia and Wales have a unique, historical connection through energy extraction, with many Welsh immigrating to the United States to find coal mining jobs beginning in the 19th century. Through this migration many stories, recipes, music and more were swapped, intertwining the cultures of both regions.
Often young people have a unique way of understanding culture and folkways, and sometimes they can help us understand ourselves a bit more. So, we had the students in Wales and West Virginia swap audio diaries. They shared everything from how the declining coal industry has affected their families, to their favorite foods. That included birthday cake, Doritos with salsa, West Virginia-based Tudor’s Biscuit World and “plain pizza.”
The Inside Appalachia team is planning a reporting trip to Wales later this year, although given travel restrictions due to the coronavirus it will likely be postponed. However, we are going to continue this collaboration remotely, much like everything else right now, with the hope to meet some of the students from Wales in the future.
This story is part of our Folklife Reporting Project, a partnership with West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Inside Appalachia and the Folklife Program of the West Virginia Humanities Council.
This story is part of West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Southern Coalfields Reporting Project which is supported by a grant from the National Coal Heritage Area Authority.
KOSU’s Audio Diaries are a collection of first-person oral histories recorded by Oklahomans. The project was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to create a space for communities gather and listen while physically apart. KOSU partnered with the Oklahoma Historical Society to record and archive the audio diaries. The production is also in partnership with America Amplified, a CPB-funded initiative to use community engagement to inform local journalism.
Philly Audio Diaries trains young people in Philadelphia to tell their own stories for broadcast. We are fiscally sponsored by CultureTrust Greater Philadelphia, which means we operate like a non-profit.
Journalistic stories about young people are almost never told by the young people themselves. In under-resourced neighborhoods like those in North Philadelphia, news crews and journalists show up for predictable stories for a short period of time. They may interview a young person, but do they really see them? Do they get it right?
The philosophy behind audio diaries is that young people need to hold the microphone if their stories are to be told in a way that is authentic and meaningful. Adults can guide kids in this process and give them important storytelling tools, but the young person is the expert in their own life.