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Be a part of history: Collecting stories of Woodbridge past and present begins this week

Gathering oral histories can provide useful, interesting and insightful information on people and places. The Woodbridge Civic Association, working with George Mason University and the Prince William County Library System’s RELIC Program, is embarking on a six-month effort to record the oral histories of Woodbridge residents.

Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank J. Principi said that the purpose of the oral history program is to capture “a day in the life of a Woodbridge resident” through audio recordings of old and new residents. He believes that the oral history will go back 75 years or more.

The program will be launched during the association’s meeting on Thursday, Sept. 20, between 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Harbor View, which is located at 13200 Marina Way in Woodbridge. The meeting is open to the public.

During the meeting, resident panelists will be asked how long they have lived in Woodbridge, what neighborhoods they lived in and the characteristics of those neighborhoods, where they worked and what was their commute like. The questions will also cover the major changes people have seen in Woodbridge over the years.

For Woodbridge residents interested in participating in the oral history program call Principi’s office at 703-792-4646 to learn more or to make an appointment to be interviewed. “We hope to get about 100 recordings through March,” said Principi.

The recordings will eventually wind up at the Library of Congress as part of the library’s “StoryCorps” project, which gathers firsthand, recorded accounts of the events in the lives of people from across the country. “People from all over the world will be able to get in and learn a little bit about Old Woodbridge,” Principi said.

Principi said there’s a difference in what people talk about and what history books reveal. “We get a different perspective that, I think, is very rich. Everybody shares a different perspective, by race, by color, by creed, where they lived, where they worked, where they shopped. A private citizen or business owner provides quite a lot of value to learn from history, and it’s fun to learn about our own past.”

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