A novel approach to preserving memories before it is too late
By Lisa Chait
Picture the scene: It’s 2054 and a 15 year old somewhere in the world is putting the final touches on his family tree for a school project. He goes online using the latest version of the iPad (can you imagine it?) and types in his mother’s maiden name. Google throws up a few bits and pieces but one particular find catches his eye. It’s a YouTube clip of an interview with a woman who somehow looks familiar.
He has already used Geni.com to get a broad layout of who is who in his ancestry. With the amazing reach of the Internet and input from others around the globe – each contributing data and photos – the grid is rich and full.
The woman whose interview Google has found is, according to the tree, his great, great, great, great grandmother. It is the very first time he has come across her. Excited, he clicks the link … and watches her come alive.
‘Dear family’, I am your ancestor and I know most of you watching this will never meet me because I will be long gone.
The clip is part of the Life Stories Project that was started in 2010. Essentially what this memorable project does, is to record memories so that clients can have a record of the stories and personalities of their ancestors for future generations. Simply put, it helps people Talk Across Time.
People record their parents, grandparents, colleagues or friends stories and sometimes their own Life Stories are captured as a family legacy for their children and children’s children.
These stories offer a window into a world that will be lost forever with their passing. And they also magically take you back into the locations, stories and personalities of their parents, grandparents and even great grandparents. They have a precious key into the past that will now be preserved forever through their telling. It is about recording history NOW for future generations. Not leaving it until it is too late and we are left saying, ‘We should have’ or ‘I am so sorry we didn’t.’
The Life Stories Project team consists of researchers, interviewers, camera people and sound recordists, commissioned to record peoples lives and then edit them into beautifully watchable or readable experiences (DVD, Audio and written). The team trawls through amazing photographs and old film, discover letters, documents and fascinating mementos. They ask questions and get wonderful, moving, funny and poignant answers, supporting people to share what is most precious – the story of their lives.
The project goal is to create thousands – even tens of thousands – of conversations across time and geography that are archived forever on DVD, CD and in text. But also available online on open or private platforms so that they don’t get lost and are accessible and sharable at the click of a button.
It doesn’t matter how you do it! Use a cellphone to record, sit down after dinner or go and visit a family member. Just take something down. Anything! Or consider using the Life Stories Project team to come and handle it for you. Don’t regret not having captured your heritage.
In terms of the project vision, the team doesn’t look for lives worthy of blockbuster scripts, or ones that publishers might consider bestsellers. The project supports wonderful regular folk whose story is important and fascinating because of its intrinsic and genealogical value. Every life is important – and even more so when the family wants to capture it. The simple idea is to help people share these stories with the future. And it is the greatest privilege to do so.
To find out more about Life Stories please visit: www.lifestories.co.za
And remember to let us know in the comments what you think of this project!
About Lisa Chait
Lisa Chait is a former history teacher and radio talk show host. More recently she has co-produced, written and presented the SABC3 television and online series ‘I Am Woman Leap of Faith’ (www.iamwomanseries.com). At last count it had 38 000 online viewers. Lisa has sat up a pole for charity at the V & A Waterfront raising R1.2 million for the prevention of child abuse. Lisa is also the passionate founder and project director of Life Stories www.lifestories.co.za.
Contact Lisa on firstname.lastname@example.org or +27 72 3776211