In 2003, in the wake of 9/11, a small recording booth opened up in Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan which invited ordinary people to tell their stories. The purpose was to celebrate these personal narratives as essential to the fabric of the nation and show how they strengthen the bonds between us. The vision for this project began years earlier when a young man named Dave Isay, from Hartford Connecticut, became interested in making radio programs. Noticing early on the healing power of delving beneath surface stories to uncover truths in his own family, and drawing on the inspiration of oral histories taken by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression, Isay eventually launched StoryCorps.
Although he has written numerous books, Isay is best known for StoryCorps and its celebration of the power of oral history. The orignal booth in Grand Central led to similar booths in Major Cities, with the collected histories of "quiet heroes" (NPR) archived and preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
Dave Isay on TED: Everyone Around You Has a Story the World Needs to Hear
2016 Education Week interview with Dave Isay: commentary Associate Kate Stoltzfus interviewed Isay by phone about the pursuit of rewarding work and the role that educators and others can play in helping students find their professional callings.
The Millions.com interviews David Isay. David Isay never planned on a career as a documentarian or oral historian. In 1987 he was med-school bound, taking a year off to make certain medicine was the field for him. One day while walking in Manhattan’s East Village, he came across a storefront that caught his eye. “There was something about the window that was so carefully and beautifully set up in this remarkable way that just kind of drew you in to this little sliver of a building,” Isay said. It turned out to be a twelve-step recovery store that sold products meant to help people on the way to overcoming addiction.