On Thursday, 7 May 2009, a group of eleven women from communities along the Labrador Straits gathered at the Oceanview Resort in West St. Modeste to take part in a day-long workshop on sharing community oral history. The group included business owners, tourism operators, heritage volunteers and workers, oral history researchers and community development officers, all of whom shared an interest in preserving the oral traditions of the Labrador Straits.
The event was organized by SmartLabrador, an organization founded in 1997 to ensure effective utilization of information technologies (IT) in business, human resources and community economic development in Labrador. The goals of SmartLabrador include:
- Increased awareness of the benefits and potential of information technology;
- Equal access to the information highway, for all communities;
- Skilled population to meet the demands of the knowledge economy;
- Increased development of IT business opportunities and partnerships.
Facilitated by Dale Jarvis, Intangible Cultural Heritage Development Officer for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the day started with a discussion of local community memories and the material being collected as part of the Smart Labrador oral history project. Part of the goal of the overall project is to return the stories to the community, and to develop programs that see the collected stories shared and performed by community members.
Participants talked about personal memories and the link between place and oral history. The group worked on a short individual mapping project, drawing personal maps of the communities of their childhoods, then guiding other participants through their map, eliciting stories and memories of those locations.
The afternoon saw the participants work with some of the primary research material collected by the SmartLabrador workers. It also utilized material collected along the Straits as part of earlier oral history projects, particularly those related to adult literacy projects, such as the publication “Crooked Top of a Safety Pin” published by Partners in Learning. Using a basic six-frame storyboard process, the participants took the historical source material and shaped it into stories that followed a more narrative, rather than purely descriptive or anecdotal, format.
The day concluded with a group discussion on next steps, returning to the issues raised at the beginning of the day. The group decided that they would hold a further organizational meeting by the end of the May, with the goal of holding a public oral history sharing event, or storytelling circle in June, possibly based on the community “Mug Up” model developed by the Labrador Institute. The “Mug Up” sees a theme or topic of discussion set, and then community members gather over a lunch to share traditional knowledge, stories and memories about that topic.
Stay tuned for more news on the project as it progresses!