Hear/say resulted from a year-long collaboration between the University of California, San Francisco Memory and Aging Center (MAC) and Voice of Witness. MAC invited Voice of Witness to be the 2015-16 visiting artist through their Hellman Visiting Artist Program. The program was created to foster dialogue about creativity and the brain among scientists, caregivers, patients, clinicians and the public.

In this role, we set out to collaborate with people from every facet of the MAC. We wanted to use the oral history process to explore the “poetry of the everyday” and celebrate the many unheard stories that swirl around their campus and beyond.

The project began with a series of meetings between VOW and MAC to lay out their vision for the project. This led to several oral history trainings, and numerous work sessions devoted to interviewing, storytelling, editing, and book production. Through the work of dozens of MAC interviewers and dozens of narrators, we were able to listen to stories that reflected the day to day realities of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The stories we collected now live within hear/say, a living, breathing testimony that is sure to resonate with anyone whose life has been impacted by dementia in some way.

From the book’s cover:

Throughout the second half of 2016, current and past members of the University of California, San Francisco Memory and Aging Center interviewed patients, caregivers, health care providers, scientists, and artists, about aging, dementia, art, work, and life, as part of the hear/say storytelling project done in collaboration with Voice of Witness, the 2016 Hellman Visiting Artist. Those interviews form the basis of the stories in this book. Each interviewer transcribed their interview and then edited it into a story told from the narrator’s point of view, using the narrator’s words. At each step, the narrator was consulted and asked for review to make sure the story was true to their voice. The stories were then organized in a way to emphasize the multi-dimensional nature of people’s experiences. The intent was to move away from defining people by a single role they play in their own lives and give the whole person space to be seen. The emphasis of the structure is on the relationships between people in their various roles of patient, caregiver, provider, researcher, or staff. In you’re in the field of dementia, you’re a part of the family.

A second volume of hear/say

We are excited to share that the second volume of stories from our hear/say consultancy with the UCSF Memory and Aging Center (MAC) and the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) is now available as well.

This new collection sheds light on the personal and rarely heard day-to-day experiences of aging and dementia, forging space for patients, caregivers, doctors, family members, researchers, nurses, artists, and more to share “stories of aging, dementia, art, work, and life.” For this volume, we also worked with GBHI partners at Trinity College in Dublin to incorporate a global perspective on healthcare, memory, and aging. In the future, you’ll be able to watch these stories in a feature-length documentary.

Check out videos from from two Readers’ Theater events here!

See more Voice of Witness-inspired projects.

Learn more about collaboration and consultancy opportunities through the Voice of Witness Education Program.