Showing posts with label project planning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label project planning. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bite what you can chew: Project focus for your oral history or folklore project

I'm back in the office after spending the end of last week at the Alberta Museums Association's annual conference, where the theme this year was on Intangible Cultural Heritage, and I'm already back into the thick of things.

Conferences tend to revitalize me, and get me thinking about what it is we do here at the Heritage Foundation's ICH program. And being asked questions about what other people could do to pursue projects helps get me focussed on practical approaches.

So it was with delight today that I had a phone conversation with Madison Sharman, who I met briefly at the AMA conference (you can check out her art and photography page on facebook).  The organization she works with is embarking on an oral history project, and she had questions about where to start, and what to do with collected materials.

Many of her questions seemed very familiar, and are ones often asked by groups starting out doing some kind of ethnographic documentation project. So I gave her some of my thoughts, starting out with project focus.

I've seen a lot of community projects get bogged down quickly. They all start from a similar place: a sense that stories or traditions are under threat, and that a need to collect information from the community before it vanishes. It is a legitimate fear. One of the big reasons we do documentation work is to collect that sort of information whilst we can.  For that reason, and for other reasons, lots of groups or museums have started oral history collection projects.

But often they go nowhere.

I think one of the big reasons for this is that organizations simply try to collect too much stuff all at once. In haste to collect everything they can, they end up with a morass of audio or video recordings and notes, with no clear focus or thematic similarity. In collecting everything, they've ended up with information that doesn't have a clear purpose, or eventual use. And often, it ends up sitting in a box, under someone's desk, forgotten.

Sometimes, the people they collect from, their informants,  are uncertain what is expected from them. While they have stories and memories to share, some aren't sure where to start with their stories while being interviewed.

Much of this can be solved by having a clear set of goals, and setting a very specific project scope, with targeted questions. Initially, some community groups resist this, in their goal of wanting to collect as much as they can before it vanishes. I always encourage groups to start small, work on a meaningful project, that results in a clear final product that they can share back with the community.

Think about why you want to do the project, and what you hope to end up with when the project is completed. Instead of doing a project on the history of your town, maybe pick one street, or one shop, or one park. Instead of doing a project on women's work in general, look at one particular craft or occupation or tradition bearer. Don't be afraid to start small, or stop when you think the amount of data you have collected is getting too large to process. Once you finish a project, and have something to show for it, you can always do another project! I much prefer seeing a couple small projects finished, than one unwieldy, behemoth of a project that is never ended.

A finished, understandable,  and accessible project means that when you go forward looking to do another project, you can show what you've done. This way, you, your group, future collaborators, partners, informants, and, importantly, funders, know what you are capable of.

Want some tips on things to think about before you start a project? Check out our project planning checklist! Download it, share it with your group, print it off, and make notes on it. You don't need to fill out every block on the checklist, but hopefully it will give you a better sense of the scope of the project you are embarking on, before you end up with a box of recordings stuck under your desk and piles of unfinished paperwork.

Those are my thoughts! Thanks, Maddy!

Got a question about starting a folklore or oral history project for your town? Email me at or call 1-888-739-1892 ext 2.

- Dale Jarvis

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mapping the legacy of resettlement in Arnold's Cove, Newfoundland

"Overall, some 307 communities were abandoned between 1946 and 1975, and over 28,000 people relocated. Captured in film, poetry, visual art and music, the response to resettlement was an important political thread in the province's cultural renaissance in the 1970s. The programme had a profound impact on the lives of those affected, and continues to resonate in the culture and collective psyche of the province today."

- excerpt from “No Great Future” Government Sponsored Resettlement
in Newfoundland and Labrador since Confederation

I had an interesting day today, with a trip out to Arnold's Cove to meet with representatives of the town's heritage committee. I was there to help provide some advice on project focus and preliminary project planning around a few ideas they have for future heritage projects.

I'm always encouraging communities to focus on projects that are somehow unique to their communities. One of the interesting facts that came out of today's meeting is that the town has a large number of buildings that were moved into the community from now abandoned Placentia Bay towns during the resettlement period.  A lot of communities in the province have resettled buildings, but the heritage committee has tentatively identified 71 houses still standing in Arnold's Cove, with a few additional buildings yet to be added to the list.  They are clustered, perhaps unsurprisingly, with people from the same home towns, with people setting up their houses in Arnold's Cove close to their original neighbours. You can see a rough version of a preliminary map above.

We are talking about setting up a public workshop in Arnold's Cove around the topic of mapping cultural resources, using this as a case study, and possibly incorporating features from of one of our old Google map workshops. Stay tuned! If you'd like to be involved in some way, you can drop me a line at

Resettlement Links:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Media Relations Workshop for Heritage Non-Profits June 2nd.

The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador is hosting a workshop to help you improve your knowledge of media relations and your ability to get the word out about your organization.
We often depend on the media to disseminate information, promote events and cover our news stories of interest to the public. However, in many non-profits, it is not feasible to have a dedicated resource for public and media relations and this role falls to other people within the organization who may not have media experience.

This workshop will instruct you: how write or improve your media releases, how to pitch stories to the media; and how to improve your ability to work with the media overall. 

When:            June 2, 2012
Where:          1 Springdale St., St. John’s, Boardroom, Heritage Foundation of NL
Time:             10:00 a.m. to Noon
Cost:             $25/$15 for students

About the instructor:

Sandy Woolfrey-Fahey has worked for several local non-profit and corporate organizations including the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador since receiving her Bachelor of Public Relations from Mount Saint Vincent University (BPR ’01). Currently, her main role is as a stay-at-home mom with her three little boys while still doing PR consulting.

Sandy is a creative thinker and approaches communication projects with this mind-set. With regards to media relations, she understands the media’s needs and is eager to share some of the tricks of the trade with you!


Space in the workshop is limited, so pre-registration is required. To register, call Joelle at 709-739-1892 ext 5, or email  If paying by cheque, cheques must be made payable to "Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Planning Cultural Documentation Projects: A Practical Workshop

On Monday, November 3, David A. Taylor, from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, will lead a practical, three-hour workshop on how to develop plans for cultural documentation projects.

He will take participants through the process of planning a project, addressing such factors as the identification of its goals, primary focus, financial requirements, and available resources, as well as the selection of documentation equipment and techniques, the use of consent forms, the development of products derived from documentary materials, and the organization and preservation of sound recordings, photographs and other materials generated through field research.

This workshop will be beneficial to people who are contemplating cultural documentation projects of all sorts, ranging from short-term projects involving a single researcher to complex, long-term projects involving many researchers.

“Proper attention to planning is crucial for the success of any cultural-documentation project,” says Taylor. “As well, if funds are needed to carry out a project, the presence of a clear, detailed and logical plan is very often a crucial factor in determining whether applications for grants are successful.”

The workshop, which is being sponsored by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, will be held on Monday, November 3, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm, at The Lantern, 35 Barnes Road, St. John's. Those wishing to participate should contact Dale Jarvis, Intangible Cultural Heritage Development Officer, at 1-888-739-1892 ext2 or email in order to reserve a spot.

The deadline for registration is October 30th. There is no charge for the workshop.

About David Taylor

Dr. David A. Taylor is the head of research and programs at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C. His work includes planning and carrying out research projects and public programs concerned with American, ethnic, regional, and occupational cultures; providing technical and reference assistance to cultural institutions and individual researchers; presenting public lectures about American traditional culture; and leading the Center’s research and programs unit. He also serves as the head of acquisitions for the Center's Archive of Folk Culture, the nation's first archive devoted to traditional life and, with over four million items in its collection, one of the largest repositories of its kind in the world. He is the founder and director of the Center's annual field school for cultural documentation, which was launched in 1994. He has directed a number of team-based, multi-disciplinary, field-documentation projects for the Center, including the “Italian-Americans in the West Project,” the “Maine Acadian Cultural Survey,” and the “Working in Paterson Project.” He has served as a member of the United States delegation to the World Intellectual Property Organization's intergovernmental committee on folklore, traditional knowledge and genetic resources.

Taylor’s areas of specialization include field-research methodology, material culture, maritime culture, and occupational culture. In addition to his work for the Center, he has carried out independent field research on these topics in Maine, Florida, Newfoundland, and Norway. He is an expert on traditional watercraft, and is proud of the fact that his field research and writing served as the basis for the creation of the award-winning Winterton Boat Building and Community Museum, in Winterton, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. Outside of his work at the American Folklife Center, Taylor is involved with research and writing about European and American decorative arts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

He holds a B.A., in anthropology, from the University of Maine, and an M.A. and a Ph.D., both in folklore, from Memorial University of Newfoundland.