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Gathering Oral Histories as a Way to Connect in the Present and Leave a Legacy for the Future

Humans are storytellers, and the stories we tell can help us understand our collective past, celebrate our individual experiences, and recognize our shared humanity.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) supports efforts to collect these stories in the form of oral histories, preserving them as a resource for the present and a legacy for the future. These testimonies have the power to create a dialogue across communities, across borders, and across generations.

Oral histories can make the textbook narrative of history feel more personal, more relevant, and more poignant, and add nuance to our conception of the world, reminding us that things are often more complicated—and more interesting—than they first seem. Collecting individual oral histories, a process characterized by intentionality and care, reactivates memories that had lain dormant and would have been lost and safeguards them, forging a link between past and future. Together, these stories ensure that a multitude of voices are represented in the conversation of history, not only the loudest.

SNF grants to a variety of organizations have helped continue the dialogue:

  • Istorima: Employing and training unemployed young people from across Greece as field workers in a historic undertaking to record and preserve over 50,000 stories working within their home communities.
  • The Shoah Foundation Institute at the University of Southern California: Indexing more than 300 Greek-language testimonies from Holocaust survivors and eyewitnesses, making them accessible by key concept to researchers and the public.
  • Freie Universität Berlin in collaboration with the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens: Collecting testimonies from survivors of the German occupation of Greece about their experiences and making them available online through the Memories of the Occupation in Greece project.
  • Queens College, City University of New York: Documenting social, economic, and historical developments through the Hellenic Oral History Project: Greek Americans by collecting stories from Greek-American immigrant communities in the greater New York City area.
  • StoryCorps: Giving people of all backgrounds and beliefs around the United States the opportunity to share stories, aiming to build mutual understanding, empathy, and respect.
  • McGill University: Creating a virtual, interactive museum to showcase stories capturing the experiences of Greek immigrants to Canada.

Each SNF grantee has its own incredible story—read some of them here.