By: Korie Marshall
You might remember seeing what looked like a fancy chicken coop, filled with video recording gear at last September’s Fraser Heritage Festival in McBride. The Story Booth was a little rough at the time; Bridget Uhl of the McBride Public Library Oral History Project says they’d just gotten it the day before. But they are hoping it will be all ready, complete with wheels, sound-proofing and its sign, in time for Pioneer Days, June 6-8.
The booth is one part of the digital story-telling project, funded by a federal New Horizons for Seniors grant, to create an archive of local history with video rather than notes.
“The idea is if you wanted to know more about Dome Creek in 1930 you can go to the Library and navigate on a screen that says ‘Dome Creek Stories’ and you can click on them,” says Uhl. “Or if you are from out of town and you think, ‘Hey, my uncle Fred grew up in Tete Jaune, I want to know more about what was happening in Tete Jaune in 1920,’ you can find out.”
Uhl and Erin Howe have been doing much of the filming and interviewing so far, but Uhl says they are working with a steering committee to determine what the final form of the project will be. She says the most common theme from the committee is to make it easily accessible.
“We know we want it conveniently on a computer, part of the museum and library,” says Uhl. “Ideally it would be like a Science World thing where you go up to a big screen and put your finger on a minute movie, and then click and get the whole interview if you want.”
The first interview was recorded last June, and Uhl says she and Howe have been sorting through hundreds of hours of footage, trying to decide how best to present them, and also trying to tag common topics in the interviews. The footage is currently available at the library, but Uhl says people would need help to navigate it. That is partly why they’ve come up with a few short sections of video from the interviews that are available on vimeo.com/user25418880.
“It’s hard to combine people’s lives, 50 lives into one story. So we though let’s just take out little nuggets from various people,” says Uhl.
These short videos are both a bit of advertisement for the project, and a potential way to have the information easily accessible. At the moment, the Vimeo site is the only link to the videos, although they can be shared in social media, like on Robert Frear’s Valley Museum Living Legacy page on Facebook. Howe says the library is working on a site to host them all, but it is not up and running yet.
But the project is far from over.
“The goal of the project is longevity,” says Uhl. “So even when Erin and I aren’t doing it anymore, people know they can come and borrow a camera from the library, film their visiting auntie and give that footage back to the library.”
She says they’ve already put on a few workshops on using the camera and interviewing, including with some grade 7 students, and they’ve trained some volunteers. Uhl says anyone can contact the library, and they’ve already had people calling to ask if certain people have been interviewed, or “Did you know so-and-so is in town for the weekend?”
That is why they hope the story booth will be successful – because it can be brought to special events, or family reunions. Maybe it can even sit outside the post office and collect thoughts on a hot topic of the week, Uhl says.
They started with a chicken coop from a local builder, and they’ve turned it into a portable recording studio.
“It’s squishy, but you can fit three people in it, so you can interview people at events,” says Uhl.
“We’ve heard some great stories; we don’t want it to end,” says Uhl, “And the museum has been really supportive. It’s a history project really.”