American Pilgrimage Project Conversations
Drawing on the scholarly resources of Georgetown University and the documentary approach pioneered by StoryCorps, the American Pilgrimage Project invites Americans of diverse backgrounds to sit together and talk to each other one-to-one about the role their religious beliefs play at crucial moments in their lives.
Its goals are to deepen our understanding of the role of religious belief in the American pilgrimage, to bring out the variety and vitality of beliefs in individual lives, to attend to the experience of people who are often overlooked, and to preserve and share accounts of American beliefs as a precious resource for future generations.
The American Pilgrimage Project is based in the university's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Paul Elie, senior fellow with the Berkley Center, is the director of the project and Georgetown's principal liaison with StoryCorps, which is based in Brooklyn, New York. StoryCorps, founded by MacArthur Award winner Dave Isay, seeks to collect, record, and share the stories of the American people as a public service. StoryCorps employs the “conversation approach”: two people who know each other sit together at a microphone and talk about topics of their own choosing. In the past eight years, StoryCorps has collected over 40,000 interviews, documenting the American experience and preserving with dignity those voices often excluded from the historical record. The American Pilgrimage Project is StoryCorps’ first project devoted to religion, and the partnership with Georgetown is StoryCorps' first with a university.
The project has begun with events in Washington, New York, and elsewhere in America. To date, the American Pilgrimage Project has brought people together to record conversations in eight American cities—gathering more than 150 stories in all—and has drawn stories from StoryCorps’ archives of 100,000+ conversations, too. Every other Friday, a powerful personal story with a religious dimension will be posted on the Berkley Center website. Meanwhile, the American Pilgrimage Project and StoryCorps will keep gathering stories across the country, creating a rich repository of several hundred stories that capture the changing dynamics of American belief across regions, traditions, and generations.