Thursday, September 10, 2009

"I WAS HERE" -- PUTTING YOUR PUSH-PIN ON THE MAP

StoryCorps, the Shoah Foundation, or the slave narratives collected by the Federal Writers' Project -- just a few examples of massive efforts to collect the stories of many of people around a given theme. The result is a collective story, or a mosaic. 

Add to the list a new effort by the recently-relocated Museum of Chinese in America, which has launched a "Story Map," which they say is "mapping the Chinese American experience -- one story at a time." Visitors to the website can upload photographs and tell a brief story about their own experience as Chinese Americans, then "tag" or categorize the story, mark themselves on a Google map, and become part of this ongoing online exhibit. The website poses some questions to get people going -- "Where is home?" "What images, objects and/or stories have been passed down over the years to become symbolic of your family's journey to America?" "I brought... I left behind..."  and so on. Other visitors may then read these stories.

As of today, there are just about 15 stories up, mostly from New York City. The Museum is celebrating its grand re-opening in its new space (designed by Maya Lin, most famous for the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Wall) this September 22, and is sure to attract more participants to the online exhibit. I think it's a smart way to allow people to contribute their own stories, organize them graphically, and serve as a public and ever-changing display of Chinese Americans' lives. 

Have you ever told a personal story for a museum, talk show, performance, or oral history project? Why, and what was your experience? 

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