The Southern Oral History Program is guided by the philosophy that “you don’t have to be famous for your life to be history.” Since 1973, it has collected 6,000 interviews that document the American South.
Its archive is brimming with captivating stories and surprising bits of unknown history, but even its staff acknowledge that the large database can be unwieldy to sift through. So, last year they created a challenge to encourage more people to comb through the interviews. It is called “Sonic South,” and it invites audio producers to use voices from the collection to produce a short audio piece around a particular theme. The project is in its second year, and this year’s theme “In Sickness & In Health” resulted in an array of creative pieces which meditate on themes including midwifery, chronic illness and the power of connecting with a story that is not your own.
Host Frank Stasio talks with Southern Oral History Program Project Manager Sara Wood about the audio competition and her crusade to encourage people to use and learn from the public archive. They are joined by two of the competition’s finalists: Carol Prince and Grant Holub-Moorman, who share their process and excerpts from their produced pieces. The top five finalists will share their work in a live listening session at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Thursday, May 9 at 7 p.m.