"The interview may be one of the most powerful ways to capture the life and spirit of another human being," says Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps, an oral history organization, which has recorded more than 50,000 heart-to-hearts over the past decade. The premise is simple: Two people who care about each other make an appointment to sit in a soundproof booth for 40 minutes and have a frank conversation about such meaningful topics as hope, hardship, gratitude, and family. It's recorded for posterity and archived at the Library of Congress, its Dewey decimal numbers like map coordinates for its place in the nation's storied history. A few (approximately one in every 100 soulful discourses) are aired on public radio during NPR's Morning Edition.
After a five-year stretch in the Contemporary Jewish Museum, StoryCorps' San Francisco booth has recently moved to the sixth-floor Skylight Gallery in the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library. "StoryCorps and the SFPL have a similar kind of mission," says Natalia Fidelholtz, regional manager of StoryCorps. "We both engage the community, tell diverse stories, and capture the history of San Francisco." The nonprofit has also teamed up with an ideal benefactor – Airbnb, the SF-based Internet marketplace for rental crash pads around the globe, whose mission to connect people through travel results in a natural exchange of daily dispatches, fables, and cliffhangers. To christen the booth in its new home, Airbnb founder Joe Gebbia, along with Riley Newman, the site's head of analytics, chewed the fat about their travel philosophies, their friendship, and what they were like as kids – common ground within the human experience, billion-dollar tech-industry success story notwithstanding.
"StoryCorps tries to show people how similar they are on the most fundamental level," says Fidelholtz, who admits to an affinity for interviews between children and their parents. "The talks between grown sons and their mothers are always so, so special." Isay, on the other hand, has a soft spot for heroes in the community, recalling the story of a retired firefighter who lost two first-responder sons on 9/11. "He said he was at peace because he'd always make sure to tell them, ' I love you,'" says Isay. "So I try to sat 'I love you' a lot."
This article was published in 7x7's April issue. Click here to subscribe.