Recording Grand Rapids' history one tale at a time

WGVU and StoryCorps team up to preserve locals' stories

By Austin Phillips | 8/26/14 11:16pm

Every person in life has a story to tell; a unique history that sets them apart from their neighbors and friends. But it’s not every day that these stories are heard. In order to safeguard the story of the common man, WGVU has partnered with StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, preserving and sharing the stories of people from all backgrounds and beliefs.

From now until Sept. 5, StoryCorps MobileBooth – a mobile recording station – will be positioned in front of the Grand Rapids Art Museum to give citizens the opportunity to record their history.

“WGVU Public Media, 88.5 FM Grand Rapids and 95.3 FM Muskegon – your local NPR radio stations – are very excited to host StoryCorps in Grand Rapids this summer,” said Michael T. Walenta, WGVU public media general manager. “This national project is a great opportunity for friends and family to record and share their stories with one another, leaving a lasting legacy.”

Upon the collection of the audio interviews, WGVU will review each story and select certain accounts to be broadcast. The selection process will be made based on stories of varying success to give the general population a message they can learn and take away from. The broadcasts can be heard from a smartphone mobile app, on the web and on the radio stations 88.5 FM and 95.3 FM. Portions of chosen tales may also be aired on NPR’s “Morning Edition” segment depending on the caliber of the story.

WGVU will also create special programs surrounding a specific theme or common thread within people’s experiences in order to highlight and emphasize the purpose of this project.

“Our community has so many great stories that you don’t realize, and it’s important to realize it so we can help preserve West Michigan’s history of the general public,” said Timothy Eernisse, developmental and marketing manager at WGVU.

WGVU chose to team up with StoryCorps because of their similar beliefs and values. As a nationwide organization, StoryCorps goes from city to city allowing the general population to be a part of the city’s history. Not only can these recorded stories be found on the organization’s website, but they are also in the Library of Congress where they are stored on CDs for the enjoyment of the general public. With WGVU broadcasting potentially inspirational key points and messages, they aim to alleviate prejudices by showing the public how diverse of a population we truly live in.

For those who wish to record a story in Grand Rapids, call StoryCorps’ toll free number at 1-800-850-4406 or visit

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