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BYU library now hosts archive of refugee stories from Their Story is Our Story

BYU library now hosts archive of refugee stories from Their Story is Our Story

People from BYU’s Library and Their Story is Our Story celebrate the launch of the Global Refugee Archive, a database of refugee stories, on Oct. 21, 2021. (Emily Ashcraft)

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PROVO — The BYU Library’s Scholars Archive will now house a database filled with stories of refugees from around the world as part of a collaboration between the library and Their Story is Our Story, the database is called the Global Refugee Archive.

Kristen Smith Dayley, executive director at TSOS, said that people are more likely to remember stories than facts. She hopes that the archive will “open hearts and minds” of anyone who has the opportunity to see the stories.

“There is something intimate and sacred about when you sit down with somebody eye to eye and take time to listen, to really listen, to another human being’s lived experience. To see things from their perspective and, if you’re lucky, perhaps break bread with them. It expands your own view, it broadens your perspective and it creates space for understanding and compassion,” Dayley said.

Dayley said the launch of the archive on Thursday is just a beginning — she hopes the archive is never completed but instead that stories are continuously added as transcripts, photos, recordings and artwork. Their Story is Our Story also plans to add stories that are compiled by other refugee organizations.

“The value of this resource will increase exponentially and will create an important record that will live beyond us,” Dayley said.

Ellen Amatangelo is the scholarly communications coordinator at the Harold B. Lee Library and runs the archive, which houses thousands of scholarly works including journals and student theses and dissertations, and now, the Global Refugee Archive.

“We’re very happy that the BYU Library has been able to collaborate with TSOS and provide a digital home for the archive in our institutional repository,” Amatangelo said.

Our overarching goal is to bridge the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them.’

–Robin Peterson, with Their Story is Our Story

Robin Peterson with TSOS said the archive contains professional artwork and photography of refugees, stories of refugees in various forms including daily diaries from four Afghan women and stories of refugee aid workers.

Peterson explained that the vast majority of refugees have shared their story under an alias in order to protect them because they may have family members who are still in danger or could be in danger themselves.

The TSOS website already contains many of the stories, but Peterson said that the archive will eventually contain a more complete catalog that will be searchable and embedded with keywords.

“Our overarching goal is to bridge the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them,'” Peterson said, and that realizing that people are more alike than different can help with bullying.

TSOS also created three sets of curriculum to help teach K-12 students about refugees and spread the stories to more people. It is available for teachers on their website along with a list of suggested books.

“It changes your perspective when you hear some of these different stories and it opens your eyes, you know, to be grateful for what you have and also to be more understanding of those around you. We really focus a lot on kindness and accepting everyone,” said Heidi Grimshaw who developed the curriculum.

As part of the archive opening, there is a lecture series happening throughout Thursday and Friday and a paper that will be presented at BYU’s Sidney B. Sperry Symposium this weekend.

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