Recording a Glimpse into the Past

John, a CCB student, shares memories with ACC students at Colorado Center for the Blind.

Image via Geraldine Smith

John, a CCB student, shares memories with ACC students at Colorado Center for the Blind.

Geraldine Smith, Reporter

The physical journey across Prince Street to the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB), a world-renowned training center for the blind, was short, but the more important journey spanned a lifetime of memories from each senior student  interviewed at the CCB last Tuesday by Arapahoe College students.

Dr. Josie Mills and her class spent part of an afternoon at CCB last week interviewing three seniors at the Center. Each group of students asked unique questions ranging from “what was your most spiritual moment” to “do you remember the first time you voted.”

Mills’ class kept the questions upbeat, dwelling on accomplishments yet, wisely not tiptoeing around the seniors’ vision problems. The senior students did not dwell on their blindness, but mentioned it in the natural course of conversation. Each senior accepted the vision loss by dealing with the difficulty in a matter-of-fact manner, demonstrating unique ways of  living productive lives despite the challenges of compromised vision.

John, a CCB student, actually wrote a book for blind children called, My Crayon, What Color is It? and he was pleasantly surprised to find it also used as a coloring book by children. Besides having another book in the works, George also does woodwork and proudly pointed out a replica he carved of an antique phone on a shelf behind the table.

The seniors were very receptive and eager to talk to the students, often relating humorous stories of life “in the old days.” Genuine interest by ACC students was evident as they continually asked germane questions that encouraged dialogue.

Each of Mills’ students wrote up a story for each senior and will email it or mail it to the senior and share their reflections on the experience in a written essay for Mills.

As one of Mills’ students, Allison Serff, said, “…I enjoyed meeting the seniors we interviewed and wish I had the chance to listen to more of their stories…”

The interviews were recorded using an APP, from an oral history project, StoryCorps.  StoryCorps’ mission, according to their website, “… is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people…” While not part of NPR, StoryCorps broadcasts selected stories weekly on NPR’s Morning Edition and the NPR website.

The APP supports the user with assistance in every phase of the interview providing the necessary tools, suggesting just the right setting and presenting instructions for producing a high-quality interview on a mobile device.  StoryCorps’ recordings, with permission from the participants, are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.  These recordings cannot be accessed online, but must be viewed physically at the Library of Congress.  StoryCorps’ stories also cannot be accessed online so, they archive the interviews onsite at their local locations and back up the interviews offsite.

The finished product must be uploaded to StoryCorps to share with family and friends, but it is the contributor’s choice to archive or not to archive. Opting out of the archive option is as simple as not signing the release and the story/interview is not shared with the StoryCorps audience. Either way, StoryCorps provides a free CD recording of the interview, but any additional copies are the responsibility of the participant.

Mills and Librarian Casey Lansinger extensively researched StoryCorps’ classroom applications and presented it to faculty members at ACC for use as a part of the diversity/inclusion theme that is part of the ACC mission.

The ACC Library has a an account set up on the StoryCorps sight and teachers at ACC can use the account to bring StoryCorps into their classrooms.