The YourStory Project

YourStory: Record and Remember is a program that initially grew out of a course taught by Professor Meg Brady of the Department of English at the University of Utah. As the 2003-2004 University Professor, Brady developed a new interdisciplinary course in “The Life Story” to train students in interviewing strategies and the narrative genres of memoir and life history; this course was at the core of the YourStory endeavor. It provided students with the necessary skills and understandings to carry out the important work of life story preservation, and at the same time created a vital link between the students’ university experiences and their service to the larger community.

Students in this course have collected the life stories of individuals at the Multi-Ethnic Senior High-rise, the Indian Walk-In Center and at various hospice organizations in Salt Lake City. In consultation with the Dean of Humanities and the Chair of the English Department, Brady developed the YourStory program. Devoted to the recording and preservation of the life stories of all Utahns, the program’s first location was inside the Museum of Utah Art & History in downtown Salt Lake City; it included a studio for recording life story interviews where a trained facilitator guided individuals in telling their stories and took care of all the technical aspects of making a recording. Later, the YourStory offices moved to the Chase Museum of Utah Folk Art in Liberty Park. With permission, these narratives were also archived at the University’s Marriott Library, where family members can access them for generations to come.

Huntsman Cancer Hospital and Hospice Care

In August of 2005 we added a second location at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital. Funded by grants from HCI, the Doctorow Family Foundation, and other generous donors, YourStory’ Living Legacy Program offers the same life story recording services for cancer patients and their families in a quiet living room setting in the Wellness and integrative Health Center at Huntsman Hospital. In addition, our facilitators also record on the in-patient floors, as well as traveling to the homes of cancer patients who are homebound. Since July 2012 our focus has been almost exclusively on recording cancer patients and those in hospice care, and we no longer offer open, community-based recording services.

YourStory has also offered numerous workshops to train hospice volunteers around the state in the art of interviewing and recording life stories. The videos included in the “Record Your Own” section of this website are based on those workshop offerings. We hope that they will make it possible for any interested hospice organization to provide on-going life story facilitator training to staff and volunteers.

Special Projects

In addition, several groups have come to ask for our assistance in recording stories of their members. We have recorded life stories for Greek-Americans who were celebrating the centennial of their church in Utah. The recordings were transcribed and books were created from these transcriptions and the scanned photographs of the participants. The Salt Lake City YWCA asked us to record the memories of women who have participated in their activities over the past one hundred years. We completed the interviews and produced an “audio tour” that accompanied an exhibit of historic photographs celebrating the YWCA’s hundredth birthday in Salt Lake City. We traveled to the Wasatch Juvenile Detention Facility to record the life stories of young women there. The CDs we produced for them will no doubt be useful in reminding them of where they have been and what they are anticipating in the future. Rio Tinto asked us to record some of the citizens of Copperton, Utah for that town’s centennial, providing some great examples of life in a mining town. The “Reflections of Refugees” audio museum, generously funded by the Jarvis and Constance Doctorow Family Foundation, is a website that features individual stories of refugees from the Sudan, Somalia, Tibet, Iraq, Iran, Burma, Vietnam. Nigeria, Bosnia, and Ethiopia now living in Utah. The project also included a series of ten radio programs based on the interviews and broadcast on PBS radio station KUER in Salt Lake City. The Saddle Stories project involved recording cowboys and ranchers on Boulder Mountain, Utah telling stories about their saddles and the work they do while riding the range. You may find examples of stories from each of these projects on the “Listen to Lives” page of this website.

Goals Moving Forward

As we move forward, our main goal is to make it easier for anyone who wishes to record their own life story or the story of a friend or relative to do so in the easiest, most productive way. To that end, the “Record Your Own” section of this website, as well as our “Resources” page, offer advice, suggested questions, and further development possibilities. Additionally, a new blog will provide continuing education in the process of life story interviewing and the creation of life legacies.