The stories of Greece, as told by Istorima
Istorima is a non-profit enterprise, set up to create a Greek oral history archive
Katherine Fleming, historian and the Provost of New York University, and journalist Sofia Papaioannou, are building a team of 1500 young researchers, who over the next four years will cover the whole country, using the techniques of oral history to document Greek history. «The researchers will be trained in oral history methodology and interview techniques and will need to show enthusiasm for history and the task of documenting it. We hope that this project will provide invaluable insight into the past but also hope for the future”, says Katherine Fleming. The stories collected will be preserved for posterity and archived so that researchers and the general public can access them. Selected stories, in video and podcast format, will be uploaded to www.istorima.org
Istorima researchers will collect stories, old and new, from various historical periods and across a number of topics.
The most important part of this initiative, according to Fleming, is that young, highly educated but unemployed people, will be given paid work. The team will include anthropology, sociology and history graduates, among other fields, who will reconnect with history, their families and home towns. «Despite the economy getting back on its feet, unemployment in Greece is still at record levels in this age group».
The most important part of this initiative, according to Fleming, is that young, highly educated but unemployed people, will be given paid work. The team will include anthropology, sociology and history graduates, among other fields, who will reconnect with history, their families and home towns.
Why do we need to preserve history? «Among western European countries, Greece has seen dramatic change over the course of the past one of two generations. A 25 year old’s life is likely radically different from that of his parents, let alone his grandparents." In addition to charting this change, "the preservation of oral histories is important in allowing for the telling of history 'from below' that is, from the perspective of the everyday people who lived it, as they lived it."
Istorima is made possible due to a generous founding grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, as part of its Recharging the Youth initiative. The academic dimensions of the project are undertaken in collaboration with Canada’s Simon Fraser University.
Every story collected is worth listening to but some are extra special because they either coincide with an important historical event or are told in a particularly engaging manner.
Sofia Papaioannou and Katherine Fleming came up with the project after discovering a shared belief in the power and importance of everyday stories. They decided to bring together the skills of a historian and a journalist in order to bring to life the idea of seeking out as many of those stories as possible, and preserving them for all to hear.
Istorima keeps growing through the two founders’ ongoing discussions with colleagues, team members, and the SNF.
Their first stop in the new year is the Peloponnese, followed by Attica and after that, every town and village in Greece. Sofia and Katherine also intend to include stories from the Greek diaspora at a later date.