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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 4, 2008

Participants sought for local StoryCorps flood stories project

The devastating flood that hit Iowa last summer made headlines around the state, nation and world. Yet many stories could be lost if not preserved -- or worse, simply remain untold.

University of Iowa Libraries -- along with university and community partners -- has invited the national StoryCorps Project to collect and preserve these stories of everyday heroism and kindness in a program titled, "Under the Current: Collecting Stories from the Flood."

"We have a responsibility to preserve the experiences of everyday people who were touched in profound ways by this historic flood," said Nancy L. Baker, director of UI Libraries. "This project is a perfect way to say 'Thank you' to everyone, whether they volunteered to help save books or photos, sand-bagged, helped a neighbor or simply persevered through surviving the flood. Even more important, however, it that this project preserves people's stories so that future generations will know first-hand what happened during this significant time."

Those who would like to share their flood stories or who would like to nominate a pair to interview one another -- can call 319-335-5069 or visit The deadline to sign up is Sunday, Sept. 21.

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit project whose mission is to honor and celebrate one another's lives through listening. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to take home and share, and is also preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Over 40,000 people have recorded their stories with StoryCorps and millions listen to the broadcasts on public radio and on the Web. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind.

The local project will include opportunities for 36 pairs of people from the Iowa City/Coralville area or local community -- or a total of 72 people -- to be interviewed to share their experiences either during or after the flood.

Interviews will be conducted Tuesday, Sept. 30 through Saturday, Oct. 11 with both the National Public Radio StoryCorps staff and local UI student facilitators who are enrolled in Applied Anthropology with in the class of Nanette Barkey, assistant anthropology professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Interviews will be held at University of Iowa Main Library as well as at the Iowa City and Coralville Public Libraries.

Interviews are conducted in the following format: two people who know one another and have a shared experience or memories related to the flood, will interview each other for 40 minutes, with a facilitator on-hand to help if needed. These interviews will be distilled into three-minute stories and archived at the UI Libraries. Interviews conducted with StoryCorps staff will also be archived in the Library of Congress.

Kristi Bontrager, University Libraries Public Relations coordinator, and Nicole Saylor, head of Digital Library Services at the University of Iowa, said that the most compelling stories come from two people who have a close connection to one another.

"All you need is a good story and someone to help you tell it," Saylor said. "The best stories come from conversations between family members, friends or co-workers."

David McCartney, university archivist, said that many participants in StoryCorps interviews describe the experience as a powerful catharsis as well.

"Whether it's a mother and son, two neighbors, a professor and a student or good friends, the most powerful stories come from two people who know one another well," McCartney said. "Many participants describe this as a way to re-live an experience that may have been happy and exciting or harrowing and painful, but either way, they are incredibly important experiences to preserve for future generations."

For more information on StoryCorps, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Kristi Bontrager, University of Iowa Libraries, 319-335-5960,; Writer: Lois J. Gray 319-384-0077,