April 2014 - Meeti our National Partners...
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Each of us gathers a library of knowledge, experience and wisdom over a lifetime. Preserving the highlights of this precious resource for future generations is up to each of us today. The message is simple: Leave Your Mark.

Let's Save and Share the Stories of Our Time

The Life Story Library Foundation, recently approved as a 501(c)(3) public charity, has a mission to collect, save and share the personal life stories of our time as valuable recorded history, especially stories from diverse and underserved populations whose voices need to be heard.
Piece by piece, a strong foundation is developing for the future growth of the Life Story Library, thanks to the help and support of many dedicated people across the land, including the fine national partners featured in this newsletter.
Watch for progress this year as we ready the tools, online and in the community, to assist you to preserve your story and the wisdom of your experience to guide and encourage those who trust and follow you.
Steve Young, producer of "Our American Family" on public television, speaks with the Life Story Library Foundation about his family, the stories they have lost, and those they are saving. 

"Our American Family" Airs on Public Television

Everyday families have extraordinary stories!  Our American Family, a historical documentary project syndicated via public television stations, seeks to document our American family heritage, one family at a time, and inspire viewers to capture their own family stories—before those voices are gone.

The first half of the 1900s represents the last era of American life that began largely unchanged from the generations that came before it. Our American Family captures the voices of the generation that experienced this simpler time and the changes that followed. You may view the first documentary, The Youngs, on the project website:

Our second episode, Our American Family: The Smiths, is currently airing on public television stations throughout the country. It profiles Willie and Rena Smith of Goldthwaite, Texas and their seven children. After the patriarch dies, the family is unable to make a living on the small farm. Rena Smith sets her signs on Abilene, where she believes a better life awaits her children.

Two new documentaries are in post-production, Our American Family: The Barreras and Our American Family: The Furutas, with broadcast slated for fall 2014.To add your family’s story to the Our American Family tapestry, review our documentary qualification requirements and submit an online application.

What did it mean to be a family before the world changed? First-hand accounts of your own family members can reveal lessons learned in the past that we can apply today. Everyday families do have extraordinary stories. Let’s capture them now, while we still can!

Please support this insightful project! Contact your local public television stations and ask them to air the Our American Family documentaries.

Meet Our National Partners

Association of Personal Historians

Tip for Finding a Personal Historian

Want to record your story but don’t know where to start? You need a personal historian! The Association of Personal Historians (APH) is an international trade organization, consisting of over 700 members who skillfully help clients to record, preserve and share their life stories.

Every person, family, community and organization has a valuable story to share, and personal historians can simplify the task of preserving story materials for generations to come. APH members work in a variety of mediums, including print, video, audio, online formats, fabrics and visual art.

With interest in stories and family history trending around the world, personal history is an exciting emerging field. As an organization, APH works to raise public awareness, promote activities and provide excellent conferences, trainings and resources for its members.

May is Personal History Month! To celebrate, APH members are planning an array of fun community events, including gatherings such as “Show and Tell for Grown-ups.” Look for opportunities, event details and a listing of APH members in your area by visiting the APH website:

International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review

Reminiscence and Life Story Work

The purpose of the International Institute for Reminiscence and Life Review (IIRLR) is to further define and develop the interdisciplinary field of reminiscence and life review through discussion and collaboration in practice, research, education, volunteer and individual applications across the lifespan. Individuals who share this mission are encouraged to become members.  Membership information is available at
Every two years, the University of Wisconsin–Superior’s Center for Continuing Education hosts the International Conference for Reminiscence and Life Review.  This conference draws participants from many academic disciplines and areas of practice from around the world to share their research and experiences, and to celebrate accomplishments in the field. The 11th conference is being planned for fall 2015.
During the 2013 conference in New Orleans, the first issue of The International Journal of Reminiscence and Life Review (IJRLR) was introduced. IJRLR publishes original work exploring the nature, function, and application of remembering the personal past within a wide range of research contexts and practice settings. The first issue, as well as additional information about the journal, is available at the journal’s website:
The IIRLR was founded in 1995 by John Kunz, a psychotherapist and Program Manager at the Center for Continuing Education. With assistance and advice from members of the IIRLR advisory board and the Association of Personal Historians (APH), UW-Superior is developing on-line courses that will be incorporated into a certificate in Reminiscence and Life Story Work. The initial offering is planned for mid 2015.

Mountain West Digital Library


Welcome to the Mountain West Digital Library!

The Mountain West Digital Library (MWDL) is an online portal ( where users can access the digital collections of over 150 partner organizations around the Mountain West region.

Started in 2001 as a program of the Utah Academic Library Consortium, MWDL provides access to unique, historical items to anyone, online and free of charge.  Since its inception, MWDL’s collection has grown to include over 900,000 items, including photographs, oral histories, pioneer diaries, government documents, videos, sounds, books, artworks, scholarly publications, datasets and much more.

In 2013, MWDL gained national recognition by becoming one of the inaugural service hubs for the new national digital library, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), contributing content from this region and making it available at a national and global level through the DPLA portal at

MWDL is taking on innovative projects in 2014, thanks to funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and various sub-awards from the Digital Public Library of America.  Starting in May, MWDL will conduct Public Library Partnerships workshops on “Digitization and Digital Exhibits at Your Library” for librarians and other library staff in Utah public libraries

In the fall, MWDL will offer digitization mini-contracts with a special emphasis on assisting small libraries, museums, and archives to digitize collections and make content available freely online. Also, MWDL’s academic library partners are once again teaming up with public libraries to digitize local and family history through the “Pioneers in your Attic” scanning events ( Take a look at the rich variety of resources available through the Mountain West Digital Library!
StoryCorps will be announcing a new initiative in June.

Timpanogos Storytelling Institute

Plan to Attend Our Storytelling Festival

The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Orem, Utah, now in its 25th year, is one of the nation’s premier storytelling events. Attendees come from across the United States and Canada to hear unforgettable stories told in a refreshing canyon setting by outstanding storytelling professionals, young and old.
The annual festival is presented by the Timpanogos Storytelling Institute in partnership with the City of Orem. Founder Karen Ashton once said, “Stories are the heart of the human experience.” Stories fascinate us. When you want us to listen, tell us a story. When you want us to understand, tell us a story. When you want us to remember, tell us a story!
The 2014 Timpanogos Storytelling Festival takes place on August 28-30, with family-friendly workshops on Thursday, and day and evening performances on Friday and Saturday. Special guest performers will be introduced soon.
This year’s festival promises to touch hearts and make folks laugh out loud. “What’s Your Story?” Take an opportunity to video record a story of your own at the event, courtesy of the Life Story Library Foundation. For more information on the festival and to register online, please visit
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The Birren Center for Autobiography
and Life Review

You Don't Have to Be an Author to Write Your Life Story

The Birren Center, founded by James Birren, is dedicated to enriching the lives of adults through writing, sharing, and preserving their life stories and life experiences. The program provides opportunities for education, training, research and dissemination of information to professionals and others engaged in the field of life review, life story writing, and aging. 

"Guided Autobiography (GAB) organizes and works toward evoking and preserving the uniqueness that surrounds all lives. The organizers of Guided Autobiography groups attempt to prime the memories of the past, the thoughts and feelings about the events of growing up and maturing that were experienced in family life..." - James Birren, founder

The first in a series of courses offered by the Birren Center helps individuals organize their life stories. Guided by a trained GAB instructor, participants are led through themes and priming questions that evoke memories of events once known but filed away and seemingly forgotten.

Writing and sharing life stories with others is an ideal way to find new meaning in life as the uncertainties of the past and the contradiction, paradoxes and events of life are put into perspective. Participants feel stronger and have a growing appreciation of thier lives. To find information on the next GAB training opportunity, click here

In the News

Read about Paulette's workshop in the Park City Record.

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