In a video tagged “love,” a Dutchman smiles mildly as his wife talks about how they met on the Internet 10 years ago.
“After a few months of talking, I thought that this guy was pretty interesting. He asked if I wanted to go to Holland,” she said. “Everybody in my family voted no.”
It’s one of about a hundred videos collected so far at the culture ministry’s National Memory Bank (國民記憶庫), which opened on Monday.
There’s a video of a woman who misses her father; one about a nun who recalls her childhood in Canada. In another, an elderly man sits in a park and tells a meandering story about the bloody war against the Japanese, then the Communists. This story, like the rest of them, has no soaring moral.
“Journalists might interview someone and want him to say he failed and now has succeeded. But this project is not about recording that,” said Sharon Chiu (邱瓊慧), who manages four of the National Memory Bank’s 44 recording studios across Taiwan.
Instead, the project aims to collect the ordinary, unprocessed memories of everyday people, she said.
In its soft launch, the National Memory Bank has opened 44 recording studios across Taiwan. In addition, a team has embarked on a bus tour that will gather stories at 31 other locations, such as Pingtung County’s Sandimen (三地門) and Cimei Aboriginal village (奇美部落) of Hualien, until Dec. 31.
Locals can stop by and answer questions about their lives: What’s been the happiest moment so far? What’s your earliest memory? What has been the most important lesson of all?
During the conversation, they decide what they want to share on film.
Amber Chen (陳貞穎), a 24-year-old interviewer stationed in a Taipei studio, said this process can take a long time.
“Sometimes before you record, you ask questions and the person does not stop talking for two hours.”
“Someone told me once, ‘I just want to get my story out so that my children can listen to it.’ I suppose that right now their children do not want to hear it [in person],” she said.
Once a storyteller has decided what to talk about, the camera starts rolling, usually for about 15 minutes. Film is edited to remove pauses in speech, and the end product is uploaded to a cloud database accessible at storytaiwan.tw.
Storytellers can use any language, Chiu said. “The interviewers are more likely to be fluent in Chinese and Taiwanese, but maybe a foreign spouse wants to speak in a native language, or an Aborigine wants to speak in a tribal tongue.”
At select recording studios, the National Memory Bank has interviewers who can use minority languages. “We ask storytellers to let us know ahead of time so we can bring in someone who knows the language, or that they bring a friend who can interpret.”
Storytellers can also upload their own video in any language directly to the cloud, via the Web site or a mobile app.
Content on the Web site belongs the Ministry of Culture, which is authorized to use it for non-commercial purposes only. When submitting a story, users can choose whether they wish to be contacted by media, film directors or other professionals for commercial cooperation.