Coney Island Voices and StoryCorps: Recording and Preserving the Oral History of America

Chris Scott Burns


While oral history collections existed long before digital technology, the use of digital recording devices and storage systems has revolutionized the way these archives are created, accessed, managed, and preserved. Because of the ease of recording oral histories, and the potential for storage and access through databases, oral history projects are currently undergoing a renaissance.

This essay will provide a brief introduction into oral history projects and discuss in detail two oral history archives: Coney Island Voices is attempting to capture a tableau of the Coney Island beach boardwalk and neighborhood and preserve them under the threat of community redevelopment; StoryCorps, a much larger project with superior funding, is more ambitiously attempting to capture the voice of all of America.

After exploring the purposes and motivations of these projects, describing the technical details of their recording and storage systems, and reviewing their long-term archiving plans and techniques, this essay will analyze their success in terms of their recording and storage efforts, as well as their potential for long-term preservation.

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