At the end of October, we hosted a StoryCorps session at our park as part of a collaboration between NPS and the StoryCorps program. StoryCorps is an organization that collects stories through facilitating recorded “interviews.” The interviews are really more like conversations between two people, with one person taking on the role of storyteller. These interviews are recorded and archived in the Library of Congress, preserving the stories for the future.

With the help of two incredible facilitators, Gautam and Morgan, we collected stories from six pairs of people connected to the park. The NPS/StoryCorps collaboration is in honor of the Centennial, and focuses on parks in the Midwest Region. We were one of over 20 parks in the region chosen to collect stories, and it was an amazing experience. Some of the other participating parks include Sleeping Bear Dunes NL, George Washington Carver NM, and Saint Croix NSR. I was the main liaison between StoryCorps and MISS and after planning the day for months it was so fulfilling to see it go (relatively) smoothly!

Wilderness Inquiry graciously let us use their offices for our interviews. After some minor mishaps (the rooms we reserved weren’t quite as soundproof as we’d hoped!) we figured things out and got started! Our first participants were Kao, a Minnesota State Park Ranger, and one of his volunteers, Bruce. Kao has been involved with the river and the park for years, as has Bruce, and they’ve developed a close relationship through their work. They were followed by our own Ranger Dave, and Connie, the habitat restoration intern with our charitable partner. Connie, now a junior at the University of Minnesota, has been involved in work on the river since she was in high school, and Dave was one of the first people from the park that she worked with. After Dave and Connie, we had local artists Ben Weaver and Shanai Matteson come in and talk about how the river has influenced their work. Both of them have worked closely with the park in the past, but have also worked with each other and a broader network of local artists. Next up were Ranger Allie, a park biologist, and Kinnell, a volunteer who got involved with the park through working with Allie. Now he’s one of our volunteer crew leaders and is one of our most involved volunteers. We had two teachers, Mary and Laurie, from the St Paul School District talk about how they involved their classes with the river. They’ve been working with us for years to provide an experiential education for their students. Finally, two members from the non-profit advocacy group Friends of the Mississippi River, Whitney and Hokan, talked about their personal and professional connections to the river.

We collected a great diversity of stories, and all of our participants seemed to enjoy themselves! It was an amazing day, and I can’t wait to hear all of the interviews. We’ll be receiving the audio recordings in the next few weeks, so I plan on writing feature posts for each of our sets of participants. Stay tuned!

Want examples of what other parks have done with their recordings?

Here’s a clip from Badlands: https://youtu.be/efNc4x9y2Co

And one from Sleeping Bear Dunes: https://youtu.be/GpeI3_w8d5A