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Oral history project calls on boro’s native storytellers

Carme Miranda (l.) and her daughter, Nilda Tirado, participated in the StoryCorps project. Queens College and the Queens Library are giving other borough residents the chance to tell their stories this week. Photo courtesy Queens College
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Queens residents who want to recall their memories of the borough as part of a massive oral history project will get their chance this week when StoryCorps’ Queens Week kicks off this Thursday.

StoryCorps gives people the opportunity to record their experiences, with the nonprofit giving a CD to the participant and keeping another copy with the archives of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

StoryCorps has collected 70,000 interviews so far across the country and recordings made by borough residents will be made available Thursday at Queens College’s Rosenthal Library from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Those who want to participate in the project can document their experiences at the Rosenthal Library from Thursday through Sunday and the Queens Library’s Flushing branch from Monday through Wednesday.

To participate, you need to make a reservation by e-mailing nyc+queensweek@storycorps.org or calling 646-723-7020, Ext. 27.

The recordings will be eligible for the Queens Memory Project and will also be archived at the Queens Library and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

“History is on the street corners,” said Benjamin Alexander, a Queens College professor and director of the college’s special collection and archives, when the project was announced last year. “Like Queens itself, this project is complex and dynamic. We’re not doing traditional archiving of materials from the past. Instead, we want to engage the historical process of Queens in real time and create a website that captures the borough’s democratic, pluralistic history. There has never been a project like this, which aims to capture ethnographic change on such a huge scale. It’s very exciting.”

Queens College and the Queens Library are partnering on the project.

Among those who have already contributed to StoryCorps’ project from the borough are 92-year-old Annalou Christensen, who recalled her parents purchasing a home in Queens in the early 1900s from parceled farmland.

Christensen also related stories about her ancestors who fought in the Civil War.

Sisters Nilda Tirado and Rosa Tirado discussed with StoryCorps how they were accepted as the first Puerto Rican family to move to their part of Queens.

Those who want more information about the project can visit philaplace.org.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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