The Oral History Project: What’s Next?

Kelsey Olson worked day and night, for months, to bring us the New London Oral History Project. This project was focused on the power of a community’s shared stories. Over thirty stories were shared from individuals, about their connection to New London and Sibley State Park.


Kelsey’s intention with the Oral History Project was to continue capturing and telling stories, even after the Riverspace Project ended. Through her work as the Sibley State Park naturalist, Kelsey is connected to many annual area visitors and locals alike. Every single person has a story to tell, of why they visit, why they keep coming back and why they stay. So many folks have rich stories about their family’s part in the history of our beautiful area. Because of the Oral History Project’s recordings of these stories and the weaving of our lives here will continue long after we’re gone. What a gift to our families and future generations! They will know how New London came to be, and what makes our area, and Sibley, magical–the people, and their stories!

In creating this project Kelsey has learned a number of things, from how to teach people how to use a story app on a smart phone, to how to effectively navigate working in conjunction with a grant, the city and the DNR.

Kelsey enlisted family and friends as volunteers to record stories and had 8 interviewers helping with that job. Together they collected 30 recorded stories that will soon be available on disc and on the StoryCorp website under “New London Oral History Project”. Six staff members at Sibley were also heavily involved, and the support of the project had a ripple effect in the community. People followed along on Facebook, with its immeasurable reach, and the project was shared on local radio stations and in both the West Central Tribune and Lakes Area Review.

Kelsey was impressively on top of it all, even when she didn’t feel like that was the case. Navigating multiple entities and their red tape is never easy, but Kelsey kept going, for the love of this community and her deeply rooted belief that our stories are what make us. With no way to hear these stories, we lose too much. Kelsey has done us the service of keeping stories alive, and there is more good news–this project will continue! Kelsey plans to capture more stories in the summer of 2017, and has inspired two other state parks to do the same.

THANK YOU, Kelsey. We the people of the Park and New London are so glad you had this idea and the organizational skills, patience and perseverance to pull it off!


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