Celebrating Our Launch: Visible Lives Oral History Project!

By Alexandra Kelly, Outreach Services
December 1, 2014
Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library

On Saturday, November 22 at Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, we celebrated the launch of Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experience, The New York Public Library’s community-based initiative to make public and preserve stories of the disability experience.

Over 50 people attended our celebration—project interviewers, storytellers, and others who are interested in learning more.

So far, an incredible team of volunteer interviewers has collected over 14 oral histories for this project that can be found on the project website here in their entirety.

The launch event began with much initial socializing between old friends and new friends. The community room was full of banter, laughter, and first-time meetings.

Many of the interviewers reconnected with storytellers they were paired with at the event as well. Joel Fram and Frank Senior reconnected for the first time after their interview the week before. They’re already planning their next outing.

Interviewer Joel Fram with Storyteller Frank Senior

Interviewer Monica Diaz with Storyteller Nooria Nosrat

Monica Diaz interviewed Nooria Nosrat about her story and Ms. Nosrat mentioned how she “hopes [her] story will inspire others.” Ms Diaz shared my sentiment after I listened to the interview: “I’m absolutely sure it will.”

Wendy Wark and Elinor Cohen became fast friends after their interview. They spoke to the audience at Saturday’s party, arm in arm. Ms. Cohen mentioned listening to her interview for a second time and feeling like it was such an accurate and rich account of her life, as she wants to describe it to others. “I could really feel that [Wendy] was listening.”

Interviewer Wendy Wark and Storyteller Elinor Cohen speak to Saturday's audience

Highlights from the first 10 interviews collection were played (”10 Voices in 10 Minutes") and you can listen to a highlight reel below…

Download: Audio (11.8 MB MP3, 9 min 52 sec)

Guests were then treated to an incredible musical performance, complete with entertaining anecdotes, from piano duo Alexander Wu and Sasha Papernik. They are a truly talented team, playing the piano together and bringing us through classics from many different periods. The audience gave a resounding applause.

Sasha Papernik and Alexander Wu perform at Sarturday's Event

At the end, the crowd lingered to say goodbyes and a few new hellos. The project itself is off to an amazing start, with an important purpose; collecting a largely undocumented history of disability through the experience of those who live it.

About Visible Lives: Oral Histories of the Disability Experience

Please visit our project website to read more about The New York Public Library’s initiative to make public, document, and preserve personal stories of the disability experience.

If you’re interested in sharing your story for this project, you can find more information on the blog post.

And, if you’re interested in being an interviewer (you can still share your story too!), we’re having another orientation on Saturday, December 13—details can be found on the program page.