In May 2013, a StoryCorps crew rolled into town for a special project at the invitation of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. A year later, the project has been wrapped up and the stories gathered have found a permanent home at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.
"We believe everyone has a story to tell, so we brought StoryCorps to Kalamazoo as part of our Love Where You Live campaign," says Jeanne Grubb, a member of the Community Foundation’s Donor Relations team. "We wanted to create an anthology of stories from people around Kalamazoo County to highlight our shared history, especially the community’s strong partnerships and rich assets."
StoryCorps staff helped the Community Foundation record 40-minute interviews with 18 local individuals from across the community. Three-minute excerpts from those original interviews are now posted here.
According to Bill McElhone, director of the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, the Community Foundation asked the museum to house all of the interviews, in their entirety, in its oral history collection.
"Like the Community Foundation, we’re part of the community and consider ourselves to be a community asset," he says. "Story telling is a significant part of what we do here, so when they asked us to be the permanent repository for this project, we were very happy to do that.
"I’ve listened to the interviews," McElhone continues, "and they’re all very interesting. The beauty of oral histories in general, and these StoryCorps interviews in particular, is that you hear stories that are unlikely to ever be published anywhere. To hear an individual’s own perspective about the history they have made in the community is really fascinating. As someone who has only lived here for four years, these StoryCorps interviews showcased for me Kalamazoo’s tight, caring relationships as a community."
On July 17, both organizations sponsored a "thank you" reception at the museum so the StoryCorps participants and their families and friends could meet one another. The museum’s staff set up a video loop with pictures and interview excerpts so everyone could experience the final results.
"We are very grateful that the museum agreed to work with us on this project," says Grubb. "It was the most logical place to hold these stories in safe-keeping for the future. We will be looking for future opportunities where we can work together to celebrate the community’s many voices."