National oral history project coming to Otis Library

Norwich – A national oral history project will take up residence at Otis Library this week to record stories of everyday life, emotional relationships and groundbreaking achievements to be aired on National Public Radio and archived in the Library of Congress.

The Norwich interviews will also be archived at Otis.

StoryCorps, a national oral history project will spend three days at Otis Library from Tuesday through Thursday to record and preserve 18 different stories from local residents. The StoryCorps sessions are part of the Institute of Museum and Library Services designation of Otis Library as one of the nation's top five libraries  this spring.

The Norwich recordings – 40 minutes each in a private setting at the library – will feature the theme “Norwich Life and Landscapes.”

Several well-known Norwich people will participate in the sessions. Retired teacher Ken Lamothe will interview national best-selling author Wally Lamb. Norwich NAACP branch President Jacqueline Owens, who will retire after 30 years in December, will chat with fellow longtime local civil rights activist Lottie Scott.

And David Burnett, executive director of newly named Reliance Health, said he expects to have an emotional conversation with a longtime mental health client, Joe. Reliance Health, formerly Reliance House, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and Joe has been a client since about 1982, Burnett said.

“It's a relationship I have had since 1982 or '83,” Burnett said of Joe, not disclosing his last name for medical privacy reasons. “It's been a wonderful, wonderful, rich relationship.”

It was Joe's recommendation that Reliance Health launch a residential program for people with mental health conditions. The facility in Norwich, called “Joe's Place,” houses six clients and full-time staff.

The StoryCorps interviews are designed to provide an opportunity for participants to ask the questions that matter and preserve stories for future generations, Otis Library wrote in a press release about the oral history sessions.

Clips of StoryCorps interviews can be heard at http://storycorps.org/listen/

At the end of each session, the participants will receive a broadcast-quality CD of the interview. With the participant’s permission, a copy will be archived at the Library of Congress and at Otis Library.

c.bessette@theday.com

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