Preserving the Living


In my May 17 post I talked about  our project of digitizing interviews with university folks that were conducted in the 1970s and 80s. In the May 24 post  I said  I was going to interview as  many alumni as possible this Alumni Weekend, as well as retired faculty and others who contributed to the university and borough.  The importance of this hit home when a beloved retired education professor, outstanding baseball coach, and community leader, died.

He had a thousand stories and they went to the grave with him.

I’ve said in previous posts how important the “story” is.  More than anything in history, the story is at the center of everything.

Technology has given the story new outlets, new ways to make immortality accessible.

Each person’s story is individual and universal.

Director Tom alludes to it in his May 25, 2007 post.  The story, whether it’s an individual or a company, is the same and different.  What’s the same is the universality of our experiences.  What’s different is the individual experience within the overall frame work of the human experience.

Dreams morph into memories.

So, this Alumni Weekend I have two work study students, my news director and myself fanning out like purposeful ants armed with digital audio recorders and cameras.  We’re going to interview as many alumni as we can.

They’re not going to be studio quality — although my Marantz and Zoom recorders are pretty damned good.  But they are going to have good content because our alumni (think your alumni; if you’re with a company, think senior folks and retirees)  want to talk about their lives and their experiences at their college . And whether they attended in the 1930’s ’40s or upward, we know what they’ll contain.  They’ll bring alive their professors, how they entertained themselves, the lifelong friends they made — the basic human experience in the text of their times.

And 10-20-30-100 years from now, these interviews will be as rich and valuable as Beuwulf, and Shakespeare.

One of my students is nervous because he’s never done an interview.   I told him to just make sure the equipment is recording.  I’ll give him a set of standard questions to ask everyone.  By the time he hits question 2, the alum will be talking a blue streak.

What excites me about all this is the freedom the Web and technology have given us.  Up until recently, the history of the university — of most anything local — was written by from one angle by a person who couldn’t write.  Now, if we’re smart, we’ll get history from a hundred angles.  It will be a rich tapestry told from a hundred points of view forming a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

I’ll let you know how we make out.

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2 responses to “Preserving the Living

  1. The same…but different!

    Thanks for putting your own spin on my concept 🙂

    As varied as each of the stories are in our lives, the seed of truth does, indeed, remain universal.

    And each day that goes by where our stories are not captured and shared for others to learn from is really a day of significant loss to those around us who could have benefited, in one way or another, from those stories.

  2. dennis miller

    Thanks, Tom.
    I hope people read your response as many times as I did.
    It’s poetry.
    It’s true.

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