Stories are central to our profession. I thought this sphere would be a cool space to highlight artful storytellers. I’ll start with Utah.
Many folks I talk to have never heard of the guy. I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Ani DiFranco. You may have heard of her. She’s a musician and founded the independent record label Righteous Babe, a move that has afforded creative freedom. Well, two of her more than twenty records feature the stories of Utah Phillips. A resident of Nevada City, California, when he was alive, Utah collected stories all over the country from people often overlooked by society that he felt deserved a place in our cultural fabric. He mixed these storylines with accounts from his own life.
My favorite story weaves an encounter he had as a child facing the humiliation a family friend and his father experienced with racism and a narrative about his own involvement with international conflict. These events are told through the context of creating memories with his own son. You can listen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fClwusLryq4.
Working with themes of heroism, struggle, equality and independent thinking, Utah addressed American History in a style both unabashed and contemplative. He used humor to make points, not just for laughs. He put energy into seeking out individuals that were on the frontlines of events and movements that shaped a history we all share as Americans. That’s a lot of effort. His passion was undeniable. I find that level of dedication and skill inspiring.
Thanks Utah and thanks Ani. Thank you too to interpreters for all you do. The stories we weave connect people to the intrinsic value of our sites. That creates a magical feeling for those who get it. Discovery is powerful.