“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” – Rudyard Kipling

“To hell with facts! We need stories!” -Ken Kesey

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr.

Everyone loves a good story. Since the dawn of time we have found ways to communicate narratives that somehow convey a sequence of events which reveal aspects of the human condition. When we huddle around a summertime campfire and spin a yarn, we are satisfying an instinctive need to verbally share much in the same manner as our distant ancestors. Since that time the basic components of the story itself remain unaltered, yet storytelling technology has changed profoundly. Whether it’s orally, in print, on the radio, in a movie house, on television or the web, delivery systems have updated with the times, yet stories’ origins arguably have not, for “[w]e all have stories to tell, stories we have lived from the inside out. We give our experiences an order. We organize the memories of our lives into stories.”(1) Whether they emerge from their creators’ imaginations or from the rich veins of history passed down through the generations, it seems that this much is constant: good stories both entertain and teach.

In this spirit, the Wayland High School History Project team set out on a new venture in the spring of 2010 and enriched it in 2011. In sum, about 130 US history students tapped into a cross section of the personal stories somehow connected to our lives. We interviewed grandparents, parents, neighbors, friends and acquaintances to discover and reveal episodes of our common past through a relatively new delivery mode called digital storytelling.

In this collection you will find some eighty 5-12 minute movies that place individuals’ stories in the larger context of American history. Called Twentieth Century American Stories, each film connects a person’s experience to a primary theme of US history. In viewing these movies, we hope that you not only enjoy a good story in that most ancient human tradition, but also discover something new about the complicated web of the American past.

1 http://dohistory.org/on_your_own/toolkit/oralHistory.html

Thank you for exploring the oral history of the community. To see more of Wayland High School's history projects visit www.whshistoryproject.org