What's on Tap

What's on Tap

StoryCorps collects oral history at American Tobacco

Posted April 17, 2014

StoryCorps will be collecting oral histories through May 16, 2014, at American Tobacco Campus in Durham.

— Whether you want to share a story or just memorialize a moment in time, StoryCorps is offering you the chance this month at American Tobacco Campus.

The nonprofit, which travels around the country recording, sharing and preserving people's stories, kicked off its one month stay in the Bull City on Thursday. Music Maker founder Tim Duffy and musician Captain Luke Mayer were the first to record their interview on-board StoryCorps' Airstream trailer. The interview, which included music and conversation, might air on StoryCorps' partner National Public Radio.

The project is designed to show that "every life matters," StoryCorps CEO Robin Sparkman said. 

This is StoryCorps second visit to Durham. They were last here in 2006. 

StoryCorps will be collecting stories through May 16 at ATC. 

Here's a rundown of the process and how you can get involved: 

  • Grab a friend, family member or anyone else close to you. The best stories/interviews come from those who know each other well and have a meaningful event or preserve. 
  • Interviews are done on the StoryCorps Airstream trailer parked at American Tobacco Campus. They last for 40 minutes and will be recorded on a CD that you will get to take home. It is free, but donations are welcome. 
  • All stories are done by appointment. To reserve your slot, go to the StoryCorps website or call 800-850-4406.More slots will be opening up on Friday, April 18, but if you don't get one sign up for the wait-list. Organizers told me that they always have cancelations. 

Since this event coincides with the 10 year anniversary of American Tobacco Campus' renewal, venue representatives are also hoping to get oral histories from those who worked at ATC when it was a cigarette factory. 

If you worked at ATC when it was a factory and are interested in sharing a story: 

  • Contact ATCStories@Gmail.com
  • Include your name, email address and phone number
  • Share your memories of ATC  (up to 200 words) 
  • Describe photos or any other visual elements you want to share 
  • Let them know if you would be able to return to ATC to tell your story 

ATC's storied history 

The American Tobacco Historic District's history started 120 years ago, when it was a cigarette factory and home to brands like Lucky Strike. By the mid-1980s, business burned out and the factories closed. 

Nearly two decades later, WRAL's parent company Capitol Broadcasting Company joined the City of Durham in reinventing the district. 

American Tobacco reemerged in 2004 and has become home to titans including Burt's Bees, McKinney, Appia, The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the Startup Factory and more. It is home to restaurants, community events and a seasonal indoor ice rink. 

The area itself is booming.

Nearby the Durham Performing Arts Center attracts national acts and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park brings in fans from around the region. 

ATC will celebrate the anniversary of its revitalization Sept. 4-7 with concerts, tours and a reunion of the people who brought the campus to life over the past century. Representatives say more details will be announced closer to the event. 


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  • balog Apr 17, 2014

    Do you people on here posting negative comments, and injecting politics into a totally benign story, get kicks out of doing so? Why don't you all just go buy your island and become totally self sustaining like you all claim you want to be?

  • jmcdow2792 Apr 17, 2014

    Do the stories have to be true?

  • anotherbabyboomer Apr 17, 2014

    Funny Duke probably has more employees in these building than any of the ones mentioned.

  • mike275132 Apr 17, 2014

    "become home to titans including Burt's Bees, McKinney, Appia"

    Funniest thing I've read all day.
    Tell it the 7000 Nortel, 5000 IBM, Sony Ericsson, etc that have been laid off .
    Do they all work at Burt's Bees, etc?


  • itlsss Apr 17, 2014

    I think the "do gooders" should make Capital Broadcasting paint over the LUCKY STRIKE brand name on the water tower because it promotes an EVIL product!

  • 68_dodge_polara Apr 17, 2014

    I wish I could have gotten a recording of the security guard who said, and I quote, "Put that cigar out. There is no smoking on the Tobacco Campus"