Story Preservation Initiative®

Preserving the Stories of Our Lives by capturing the voices, words, and meanderings of artists, scientists, writers, poets, musicians, and eyewitnesses to history. Listen, learn, and be amazed!

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2015

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” — Elie Wiesel

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Today is HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY, a day when people around the world gather to remember and honor the millions of victims of the Nazis’ World War II extermination campaign.

There are many ways to be a part of this international event. For some, prayer and quiet reflection. Others may choose to listen to the story of a holocaust survivors.

I’ve included links to Story Preservation recordings of Holocaust survivors. These are powerful stories, told in the first-person.

To listen to Samuel Bak (Vilna, Poland), go to:…/finding-the-univ…/

Henry Weinstock (Antwerp, Belgium), go to:…/hidden-children-…/

Other sites:
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, found at:…/days-of-remembrance/why-we-remember

Yad Vashem, found at

What a Plant Knows


This recording, like so many, has been a long time in coming – and worth the wait!

I first became aware of the work of plant biologist (and so much more, read on for his complete bio) Daniel Chamovitz in 2012 and contacted him then to try to arrange a meeting. Unfortunately, my timing was off as he was just leaving the States and returning to his home in Tel Aviv.

Fast-forward three years and – finally –  I will have the pleasure of meeting and recording Danny this summer.

And here is what we’ll be talking about:

Danny will share with us an intriguing and scrupulous look at how plants themselves experience the world–from the colors they see to the schedules they keep. Highlighting the latest research in genetics and more, he takes us into the inner lives of plants and draws parallels with the human senses to reveal that we have much more in common with sunflowers and oak trees than we may realize.

Chamovitz shows how plants know up from down, how they know when a neighbor has been infested by a group of hungry beetles, and whether they appreciate the Led Zeppelin you’ve been playing for them or if they’re more partial to the melodic riffs of Bach.

Covering touch, sound, smell, sight, and even memory, Chamovitz encourages us all to consider whether plants might even be aware of their surroundings.


He studied at both Columbia University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he received his Ph.D. in Genetics. From 1993 to 1996 he carried out postdoctoral research at Yale University before accepting a faculty position at Tel Aviv University where he recently served as Chair of the Department of Plant Sciences. In 2002, Prof. Chamovitz was a visiting scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. He is currently the Dean of the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences at Tel Aviv University.

We’ll be meeting in New York this July. Stay tuned! This promises to be a fascinating talk that we will bring into classrooms and share broadly.

Stories Matter

Wesley McNair  Maine Poet Laureate

Wesley_McNair_1-1024x704Wesley McNair is the Poet Laureate of Maine. Poet Philip Levine has called him “one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry.” He is the author of ten volumes of poems and twenty books, including poetry, nonfiction, and edited anthologies. McNair has held grants from the Fulbright and Guggenheim foundations, two Rockefeller grants for study at the Bellagio Center in Italy, two NEA fellowships, and a United States Artist Fellowship as one of America’s “finest living artists.” He has twice been invited to read his poetry by the Library of Congress, and has served four times on the Pulitzer jury for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Other honors include the Robert Frost Award, the Theodore Roethke Prize, an Emmy Award, and the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal, for his “distinguished contribution to the world of letters.” His poetry has been featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition and twenty-two times on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared in the Best American Poetry and over sixty anthologies and textbooks. His most recent books are The Lost Child: Ozark Poems, for which he received the 2015 PEN New England Award for Poetry; Lovers of the Lost: New and Selected Poems; and The Words I Chose: A Memoir of Family and Poetry.

To listen to Wesley’s talk about his life and poetry, click on links below.

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative, 2012.  All rights reserved.

A Repository of Personal Treasures

Those that I record are wonderfully generous to share personal family photos with Story for inclusion in the Learning Lab.

These images (and I receive many, these are just two that I chose to share) support the audio narrative. The photographs are one-of-a-kind, personal treasures.

Used with permission of the Family.  Restrictions apply.

Used with permission of the Family. Restrictions apply.


Some of the “Hidden Children of the Holocaust” who were separated from their parents, took on false identities, and lived in seminaries. This photograph was taken in Jamoigne in the Ardennes, Belgium.  Henry Weinstock, who we recorded, is top row, far right.





Used with permission of the family.  Restrictions apply

Used with permission of the family. Restrictions apply




This of Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum in his studio with his son, Lincoln. After Gutzon died, Lincoln continued work on Rushmore.








To find out more about the Story Preservation Initiative Learning Lab, click:


Thanks for looking!

Terry Tempest Williams ⎟ Seeing Beyond Our Time

TT-Williams-CREDIT-Louis-Gakumba2501-200x238“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.”

Author, Conservationist, Environmentalist Terry Tempest Williams has been called “a citizen writer,” a writer who speaks and speaks out eloquently on behalf of an ethical stance toward life. A naturalist and fierce advocate for freedom of speech, she has consistently shown us how environmental issues are social issues that ultimately become matters of justice. “So here is my question,” she asks, “what might a different kind of power look like, feel like, and can power be redistributed equitably even beyond our own species?”

Williams, like her writing, cannot be categorized. She has testified before Congress on women’s health issues, been a guest at the White House, has camped in the remote regions of Utah and Alaska wildernesses and worked as “a barefoot artist” in Rwanda.

Known for her impassioned and lyrical prose, Terry Tempest Williams is the author of the environmental literature classic, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place; An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field; Desert Quartet; Leap; Red: Patience and Passion in the Desert; and The Open Space of Democracy. Her book Finding Beauty in a Broken World, was published in 2008 by Pantheon Books. Here latest book, When Women Were Birds came out in 2012.  She is a columnist for the magazine The Progressive and contributed to Changing the Earth by Emmett Gowin.

Changing the Earth

In 2006, Williams received the Robert Marshall Award from The Wilderness Society, their highest honor given to an American citizen. She also received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western American Literature Association and the Wallace Stegner Award given by The Center for the American West. She is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in creative nonfiction. In 2009, Terry Tempest Williams was featured in Ken Burns’ PBS series on the national parks. She is also the recipient of the 2010 David R. Brower Conservation Award for activism. The Community of Christ International Peace Award was presented in 2011 to Terry Tempest Williams in recognition of significant peacemaking vision, advocacy and action.

Terry Tempest Williams is currently the Annie Clark Tanner Scholar in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Orion Magazine, and numerous anthologies worldwide as a crucial voice for ecological consciousness and social change.


In the recording Terry talks about the Council of Pronghorn at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NY, seen here.

Portrait of Terry: Photo: © Louis Gakumba




Click on links below to listen to Terry’s recording: 

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.  2013.

Stories Matter

Our Mission

SPI_logo_final_web copy 6Story Preservation Initiative seeks out individuals whose lives and life stories represent narratives of unique accomplishment in the arts, sciences, and humanities. In its goal to record the oral histories of extraordinary individuals who have succeeded in transforming their lives and communities in both visionary and practical ways through their discoveries and achievements, Story Preservation Initiative strives to combine capturing the provenance, development, and fruition of its subjects’ careers as uncommon human stories with designing educational lesson plans that focus on the nexus of their work and lives.

With its archival home at the Library of Congress, Story Preservation Initiative will provide continual easy access to its rich collection of oral histories for a host of vital uses, ranging from integration into public and private school curricula to broadcast media access to library and digital archiving to free podcasts and website availability. All recordings and subsequent educational lesson plans will be categorized by subject and made available in part or whole on the Story Preservation Initiative website.

This venture seeks to uphold and celebrate the tradition of American individualism in a time of increasing cultural and technological homogenization, seeking out self-made artists, scientists, and writers who have pursued their ventures and dreams with exemplary self-reliance, perseverance, and singleness of heart. Each story that the Story Preservation Initiative records serves as a vital testimony to its subject’s genius for envisioning and then achieving seemingly impossible goals that stand out in the context of their lives as hallmark accomplishments in the ongoing legacy of the best human progress.

Hidden Children of the Holocaust



With fully embedded audio.  To listen, click on links below. 

Henry Weinstock was one of the Hidden Children of the Holocaust. He was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1934. Hitler’s army occupied Belgium in May of 1940.

In 1942, when Henry was eight years old and with Jews being deported to “areas in the East,” (later, of course, it was known that these were death camps) his father “gave him away” to a Catholic priest by the name of Edouard Froidure, better known as l’abbe Froidure. This, perhaps, the greatest act of love.

Used with permission.

Used with permission.

L’abbe Froidure baptized Henry and changed his name to Henry Albert Gerard. At great personal risk, l’abbe Froidure housed Henry – now a good Catholic boy – and other young Jewish boys who had also assumed new identities – in a camp outside of Brussels.

The story is complex (fully told by Henry in Story Preservation’s audio, available for listening below)  but on October 9, 1942 Nazi soldiers came to the camp and l’abbe Froidure was arrested and ultimately sent to Dachau.

Henry – still known as Albert Gerard – went on to other homes run by Catholic nuns and priests. All put the lives of the children ahead of their own, creating elaborate stories to protect those in their charge.

Fast forward to 1945. Henry was miraculously reunited with his father who, shortly after he left Henry with l’abbe Froidure, was arrested and sent to Buchenwald. Few of the hidden children ever reunited with family. L’abbe Froidure also survived his imprisonment in Dachau. Henry and his father immigrated to New York.

In 1946 l’abbe Froidure visited the city. Somehow word got out that a young boy that he had baptized and hidden lived nearby.   The two were reunited.   The New York press had a field day.



Audio is a production of Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.  


Stories Matter




More on the Hidden Children from the NY Times.

Who were the ‘hidden children’ and why have we not heard about them until recently? Though widely known within circles of academia and described more thoroughly in Holocaust literature, hidden children in general are the least known group of survivors from World War II. These children, anywhere between their infant years and their late teens, were given away either temporarily or permanently by their parents in order to save them from the concentration camps. Although there were several variations on the child’s hiding situation, they were usually sent to live with Christian families with whom they took on false identities throughout the duration of the war, or were physically hidden until the danger of arrest and deportation had passed.

In 1991 there was a Gathering of the Hidden Children in New York.

Deborah L. Coffin Joins SPI Board

We’re pleased to announce that Deborah L. Coffin will join the Story Preservation Initiative board of directors, effective March 2015.



Deborah L. “Deb” Coffin has been actively involved in non-profit governance for more than two decades. Current non-profit board membership includes the Wildlife Heritage Foundation of New Hampshire and the League of New Hampshire Craftsman. In addition, in 2014 Coffin was elected a member of the Colby-Sawyer College Board of Trustees. Previous board service includes Habitat for Humanity of the Kearsarge / Sunapee NH Area, and the Lake Sunapee Area Mediation Program.




Deb brings a strong and life-long interest in the arts and education to her position. She taught at both Colby-Sawyer and Granite State colleges and worked as the education coordinator for the Enfield Shaker Museum. A talented artisan, she is a juried member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsman and a past president of the New Hampshire Guild of Spinners and Weavers.

Coffin earned a B.S. in business administration from Colby-Sawyer College and a M.S. in human services from New Hampshire College.

The Day They Lost the H-Bomb

No known copyright restrictions.

The Palomares Incident, 1966

Between the years of 1963 – 1966, Joe Henderson was an active duty Navy Seal assigned to the Naval Special Warfare unit.

He  was among those called to find one of the “missing” hydrogen bombs, accidently dropped off the coast of Spain near the small fishing village of Palomares.  The Palomares Incident, as it was called, occurred on January 17, 1966 when a US Air force B-52G bomber collided in mid-air with a refueling tanker.  The B-52G was carrying four hydrogen bombs.

Three of the bombs were found on land.  The fourth, which fell into the Mediterranean, was located on March 17, 1966, using Alvin, the US Navy’s manned deep-ocean research submersible. The bomb, found resting nearly 910 meters (2,990 ft) deep, was raised intact on April 7.  (The next generation Alvin found the Titanic).

Although Joe’s unit was not the one to find the missing bomb, he played an important role in discovering its whereabouts.

Between the years of 1975 – 1988, he was again on active duty, this time with the US Navy Medical Corps, as a Submarine and Diving Medical Officer.

In 1975 Joe received his M.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  And in 1994, he received his Master of Philosophy degree from Yale University in Epidemiology.

In 1981 he received a Navy Commendation Medal.

To Listen – click on links below:  

Track 01

Track 02

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

Meet the Harvard Computers

1466268_1428800040666481_1159123551_nWhen I met with Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, one thing that we talked about was the history of the Harvard observatory.  Jonathan explained to me that there was a lot of work involved in mapping the night sky.  I guess!  So, Edward Charles Pickering, the director of the observatory (1877 – 1919) decided to use “computers” for analysis.  Meet the Harvard Computers, pictured above, circa 1913.

To listen to Jonathan talk about the Women Computers, click on the link below.  I’ve also included an edited transcription.

Click here:


To listen to Jonathan’s full recording, go to:


The [Harvard] Observatory was founded in the 1840s. There had been astronomy at Harvard since very early times – maybe the 1700s – but they just had a few small telescopes on the roof. … There was a big comet in the early 1840s that got a lot of the public interested in astronomy. Astronomers in Cincinnati, which at that time was pretty much Wild West, had a big observatory. The upshot was that the New England elite were a little embarrassed that they didn’t have anything to match. And so one of these guys decided that they really needed to have something to be a premiere astronomical institution and he should raise some money. His name was John Quincy Adams. So he was able to raise the money in [something] like two weeks, or something ridiculous. So the great refractor was born on Observatory Hill – or what became Observatory Hill. … It was one of the biggest refractors in the world. … On this great refractor telescope the Harvard astronomers did the first experiments with photography. They took some of the first daguerreotype of the moon and other objects. … An important development was the systematic photography of the sky where [they] took lots of photographic plates of parts of the sky and stored them – and we still have them. And so we have 100 years – or more than 100 years – of archive photographic plates. …

This was a lot of work though and more than the astronomy professor at Harvard could do. So, he did the observations for the most part – but he hired computers to do the analysis. And these were not digital computers, they were human beings and, for the most part, they were women. And the tradition at that time in observatories and other laboratories was that for mathematical calculation and for data reduction kind of work, it was a good opportunity to hire women who didn’t require the same pay scale as men at the time and were thought to be reliable and good at detailed work. So they were just meant to catalogue these stars … but just do rote work, not really think about it too much, not make discoveries. But, of course, that kind of job attracted women who were smart and wanted an intellectual challenge – and they did make discoveries. Instead of taking the discovery credit for himself, the observatory director actually recorded who made the discoveries and gave them credit. And so we know the names of these women. So we know that Annie Cannon is the person who catalogued a quarter-of-a-million stars and made the distinctions we still use today between an O-star, which is a blue star and an M-star, which is a red dwarf star. …

Copyright 2013 Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.


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