Over the weekend I happened to catch part of the This American Life program on National Public Radio. This weekend's program was called "Accidental Documentaries." During the program, host Ira Glass played excerpts of audio tapes from a variety of sources, including one found in a Salvation Army thrift store.
The recordings were rich with family stories, many obviously were never intended for the national audience delivered by NPR. They were riveting, if in a voyeuristic sense.
There was a time when I was deep into audio recording myself. Although I started using audiotape as a means of identifying radio stations, I soon expanded it to incorporate my music collection. It was a short hop to recording family events and conversations.
Although most of those recordings have been lost, I still managed to come up a few earlier this summer while working on my own family history. Included were tapes of my children at very young ages, snippets of phone conversations and radio station appearances and a complete cassette from my mother-in-law from back in the day when swapping tapes between out-of-town relatives was in vogue.
At one point, I bought a box of reels of tape at a garage sale with the intent of recording over them. Upon checking, however, I realized there were hours of giddy conversations among teenage girls from the 1970s, the golden age of mass reel-to-reel recording. I started to save parts of these conversations but soon realized I lacked the family context to make them relevant. How I wished I could have returned them to the rightful owner.
What about you? Do you have any "Accidental Documentaries" tucked away somewhere? Even if you don't, your relatives might. It's worth checking.