OurStoryBridge National Oral History Program receives charitable nonprofit status

OURSTORYBRIDGE INC./PHOTOAudience members listen to a presentation on local history at the Keene Valley Library. The OurStoryBridge program gives any community the tools and instruction to help make brief recordings of people sharing stories of their personal history to be preserved for the ages.

KEENE VALLEY – The Keene Valley Library’s OurStoryBridge Inc. is legit, legally speaking.

The Internal Revenue Service has determined it has met the requirements for 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit status.

OurStoryBridge Inc. (www.ourstorybridge.org) is a free tool kit for producing crowd-sourced oral history projects collecting and sharing a community's unique history online.

It outgrew the Keene Valley Library.

“How could I apply for grants?” Jery Y. Huntley, MLS, founder of OurStoryBridge and Adirondack Community and president of OurStoryBridge Inc., said.

“We’re a small, rural economically challenged library, and we want national money to help us do this. I had volunteers, and I had graduate students at SUNY Albany and a lot of undergraduate students that interned. They helped, too.”

Once the project went national, the Keene Valley Library Association Board of Directors decided to incorporate.

“That’s a process that takes months and incredible bureaucracy,” Huntley said.

“But, we incorporated. On Jan. 1, we applied. The IRS looked at it, and said you’re in. We are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization now, with a national scope, even though our first priority is to grow in upstate New York and New York, but it is growing all over the country.”

PRESERVE/CIRCULATE AUDIO STORIES

The mission of OurStoryBridge Inc. is to be a resource and tool kit for OurStoryBridge projects that preserve and circulate local audio stories past and present through accessible online media; to promote, build, and assist with the deployment of these resources in communities across geographic, cultural, socioeconomic, racial, and organizational strata; and to help strengthen these communities through sharing of their stories, including encouraging younger generations to become engaged community members.

“We started a little program at the Keene Valley Library in 2019 where we collected five-minute audio stories from people, especially older people in our area, put them on our website with photos from our archives so that even though it’s audio stories with the photos it looks like their videos,” Huntley said.

“Five minutes only, quick stories. They are on the website for anybody to listen to, and also we use them in schools to teach our kids who their neighbors are, who their neighbors, why our area is a place that has had so many catastrophes yet everyone helps to each other, and try to increase volunteerism in the community, kindness; and also to keep our kids coming back and not leaving the area like they do in the Adirondacks and other rural places.

“The stories are oral histories, but they are different from other areas in that they are quick, five minutes, beginning, middle and end. You tell it. You don’t prepare. And, it’s there.”

The library has collected more than 225 Keene Valley stories.

“Even though our town is a population of 1,100, over 6,200 people have come to the website to listen to our stories,” she said.

After their success, Huntley thought other places could do the same thing.

The project founder wrote a book and instructional videos, put it on the website after securing a small grant to do it.

The how-to was released during a virtual conference of the Association of Rural and Small Libraries.

“Four-hundred-and-thirty librarians chose to listen to me talk about OurStoryBridge,” she said.

“Since then, it’s all over the country from indigenous communities Alaska to Washington state. One is starting in California, Kentucky, Vermont, Illinois.”

There are two in New York, Lake Placid and Keene. Three more in the Adirondacks will be released this year.

“We will probably have about 15 by the end of the year, and it’s only 18 months,” she said.

UNIVERSAL APPEAL

OurStoryBridge supports the creation of three- to five-minute, locally created audio stories with related photographs, as well as their online accessibility, by posting them on individual websites that appeal to both young and old and can be produced at low cost.

The support of the Keene Valley Library has been essential to the project.

“With over 500 OurStoryBridge User Guides downloaded, presentation participants from 46 states, six oral history projects released across the country, and more in the Adirondacks and from Vermont to Alaska expected just this year, we felt that the time was right to communicate from a national platform,” Huntley said.

DOWNLOADABLE TOOL KIT

The second edition of the OurStoryBridge User Guide offers not just the benefit of 18 months of experience initiating story projects across the country, it presents updates inspired by the questions and comments from communities who read the initial User Guide, made their decisions to move forward, and created their unique story projects.

Download it for free in the Tool Kit at www.ourstorybridge.org.

One-on-one assistance to communities continues to be available as they start their story projects.

“We were thrilled to incubate OurStoryBridge, and are even more excited that it has grown to a national organization with story projects across the country,” Carolyn Peterson, president of the Keene Valley Library Association Board of Directors, said.

“Interest in OurStoryBridge has inspired over 6,200 unique users to visit our local oral history project, Adirondack Community, the model for OurStoryBridge, at www.myadirondackstory.org, to listen to stories.”

The generosity of the Cloudsplitter Foundation, Adirondack Foundation’s Lake Placid Education Foundation, Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation, J.M. McDonald Foundation, and community support have made OurStoryBridge (www.ourstorybridge.org) possible. For more information on OurStoryBridge, email createyourstoryproject@gmail.com.

Email Robin Caudell:

rcaudell@pressrepublican.com

Twitter:@RobinCaudell

 

 

 

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