Free app guides process of creating oral histories


During the family trip this summer to visit Aunt Linda, or perhaps while enjoying a Rockies game with your dad, it is now easy and convenient to begin the process of capturing precious memories from loved ones, before those memories are lost forever.

Why are oral histories important? Stories ultimately grow into memories, and memories eventually grow into narratives of self and family. As the years pass, they enrich the identity and strength of the person who experienced them, as well as that of family members who are lucky to hear them. However, oral histories often pass away when the relative does, often without their families ever hearing about their life and cherished memories. Unless someone in the family documents them, these stories simply slip away for all time.

Now there is a free app created by StoryCorps ( that makes it simple to plan, conduct, capture and share these precious moments with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Available for both Android and Apple iOS devices, the app guides you through the process of picking interview questions and organizing the interview, and then allows you to record the interview on your smartphone or iPad.

While anyone can record an oral history with a simple voice recorder, the StoryCorps app’s greatest strength is the ability to share these oral histories easily with others. After downloading the app and creating the interview, you can mark it as private, share it through popular media sites, upload it to the Archive StoryCorps database (, or upload and preserve it in the American Folklife Collection with the Library of Congress.

Oral histories can have an important impact for your family: documenting life stories, traditions, values, life lessons, and hard-won wisdom; preserving a musical talent or storytelling capability. Hearing family stories can help teens develop a personal identity and can advance comprehension abilities in children. Capturing memories from close relatives about loved ones suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s can help caregivers provide better care or can be therapeutic for surviving family members when loved ones pass away.

StoryCorps is a tool that produces a digital recording file which you can then edit, supplement, and combine with other files in creative ways. Perhaps you have photos you would like to include with the oral history, making it into a video that can be shared. This is a lot easier than mailing out a cherished hard-copy family album. Perhaps you want to edit an oral history to a certain length. Or maybe a cousin has asked you for a portion of an interview you made with your mother to include in a history of your mother’s sibling. By learning a few easy to learn editing tools, all this and much, much, more can be easily accomplished.

Wondering about what is needed to go digital? Douglas County Libraries in Parker offers a free recording studio, as well as easy-to-use recording equipment, editing software, and a photo/video conversion station to get started. More importantly, there are knowledgeable librarians who can walk you through your specific project. Just make a reservation online for the Parker Recording Studio at and select “Schedule Assistance” in the reservation form.

To learn more about using the StoryCorps app and other movie-making and editing tools, attend the Learn About event: Making the Movie of Your Life at Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock from 10 a.m. to noon on June 20. Register online at or call 303-791-7323.

Robin Warnke is an adult services librarian at Douglas County Libraries in Parker. This column is hosted by the Seniors’ Council of Douglas County. For more information, please visit, email or call 303-663-7681.


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