Situated outside the Athens-Clarke County Library, the StoryCorps Mobile Tour’s airstream trailer has been the hub of dozens of conversations between Athens community members since Oct. 14. Some participants included University of Georgia professors, who discussed their recording experience.
With its location at the library, StoryCorps aimed to attract a variety of people across Athens. According to Jacqueline Van Meter, site manager of the StoryCorps Mobile Tour, a common theme has been Athens itself.
“People have really wanted to talk about what brought them to Athens,” Van Meter said.
Van Meter appreciates the location of the library for providing a cross-section of the Athens’ population.
“There has been an enthusiasm from people who already knew what StoryCorps was and for people who are only recently coming around and knowing what we do,” Van Meter said.
Akinloye Ojo is the director of the African Studies Institute at the UGA. Ojo heard about StoryCorps from WUGA, where he hosts a radio show called “African Perspectives.”
“Finding out about the project and what it was meant for — I wanted to be a part of it,” Ojo said.
Conversations between spouses occurred for multiple participants. Ojo spoke with his wife Oluremi about their marriage and family, while Jenna Jambeck, associate professor in the College of Engineering at UGA, spoke with her husband Matt about how they met and their lives.
We met working together at a landfill in Florida,” Jambeck said. “I specialize in researching solid waste and plastic pollution, so when I tell that story … it’s kind of surprising to folks and it’s a fun story.”
An intimate setting
Outside the large Athens-Clarke County Library building is the airstream trailer where the recordings take place. While it may appear small on the outside, participants enjoyed the setting.
“It’s very intimate,” said Leslie Hale, executive director of Books for Keeps. “An airstream trailer is already a very close space, and the recording booth is in the back part of it, so you’re very close to the person you’re speaking with.”
Hale spoke with Melaney Smith, founder of Books for Keeps, and appreciated the low lighting and lack of outside distractions during the recording.
Jambeck and her husband were nervous to record, but found the space to be pleasant.
“When you’re doing it, you’re facing each other and the world just becomes you and this other person that you’re talking to, which is really neat,” Jambeck said.
Similarly, Ojo and his wife were engaged in conversation and adjusted easily to the trailer.
“After a few minutes in the booth, you don’t notice it because you get caught up in the conversation,” Ojo said.
A chance to reflect
Many participants who recorded with StoryCorps lead busy lives with little time for in-depth conversations, so the experience enabled them to talk to people in their lives in a different way than usual.
Jambeck expressed how she and her husband were grateful for the experience and to be able to document their stories.
“It was a great opportunity for us to tell some of the stories of our life together,” Jambeck said.
Hale explained how she and Smith were able to talk about the past rather than the future during their recording.
“This was a rare opportunity for us to reflect back together and talk about those early days, and talk about what it was like for her to hand over the reigns of [Books for Keeps],” Hale said.
The trailer will be parked outside the library through Nov. 11.