In September the national StoryCorps visited the U-M’s Silver Club enrichment program for folks with dementia. The corps’s goal: recording people’s stories before the memories fade. A Georgia-born great-grandmother recalled an object older than herself: “The same iron skillet made cornbread by three cooks, mother-daughter-daughter.” And she described her girlhood nerve around rattlesnakes: “I’d take a big stick—they’d open their mouth and I’d whack ’em and say, ‘Shut your mouth!'”

“My maiden name!” exclaimed another woman as a friend pulled a yellowed, carefully penned letter from a shoe box. It was written by the suitor who later became her husband of fifty-two years: “I’m sad tonight and tired of my own cooking so I thought writing to you would help. . . .” The words jostled loose the memory of how she stayed beside him years later as he died: “I couldn’t leave him then.” All the recordings will be archived in the Library of Congress as part of the nation’s history—the lives of its people, captured in the singular intimacy of a voice.