Showing posts with label seniors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label seniors. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Engaging Seniors in Heritage Projects - notes from Heritage NL's Intangible Cultural Heritage office

The current COVID-19 crisis is difficult for seniors on many fronts.  In addition to creating serious health risks, it has further isolated many.  Heritage NL has been working with seniors for a number of years to capture their stories and offer validation of their lives and experiences.  While engaging seniors in a time of social isolation is challenging, telephone conversations and video interviews can serve as a useful way to connect.

As a guiding principle, Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial Intangible Cultural Heritage strategy recognises that incorporating multiple voices, including those of seniors, is important in all work relating to ICH. ICH is kept alive and is relevant to a culture when it is regularly practised and learned within communities and between generations. In many instances, elders in our communities are the bearers of many of our traditions and customs and have an important role in setting priorities for community-based research and being valuable information sources for documenting traditional knowledge. We strive to celebrate the voices of seniors by keeping them involved in the various levels and types of work we do and by documenting their knowledge in the process.

In 2016, Heritage NL launched its Collective Memories Project - an initiative which invites seniors to record their stories and memories for archiving and sharing. It was established as a joint project of Heritage NL, the Provincial Advisory Council on Aging and Seniors, the Interdepartmental Working Group on Aging and Seniors, and the Department of Seniors Wellness and Social Development.  

The Collective Memories Project is an umbrella for a number of initiatives designed to create venues for community members to come together to share ideas, experiences, memories, and traditional knowledge. One of our tools is the “Memory Mug Up” program, initially developed by Dr. Martha McDonald at the Labrador Institute. As she describes it, “A mug-up is a snack that people have when they're in the woods,” and the idea behind the Memory Mug Up is easy to apply anywhere.

“One thing we wanted to do was community outreach,” McDonald says, “and so we thought it would be a good idea to just go visit people in their communities and talk to them about days gone by, a very simple idea.” The goal is to help participants share and preserve their stories: a personal story, a story about a family member, or a story about the community as a whole.

Often, the Memory Mug Up is the start of a longer conversation. Community storytelling sessions help identify tradition bearers and knowledge keepers. We record their names, and follow up with one-on-one oral history interviews. All of these are archived in partnership with a local university. Then, we develop online content, short digital storytelling videos, or community history booklets from some of these collected stories.  An important part of keeping stories alive is to make sure that collected materials get back out to the community, and ensuring people’s memories don’t languish on a shelf in an archive. One of the first booklets in our Collective Memories Series featured the experience of five City of St. John’s volunteers and their reflections and advice on volunteering in the community.

Stories of our elders are an important part of understanding our historic places.  The Historic Places Initiative defined heritage value as: “the aesthetic, historic, scientific, cultural, social or spiritual importance or significance for past, present or future generations.”  All of these are related to our collective memories, and the knowledge of those who came before us.  You can’t save historic places without also collecting the stories associated with them, so Heritage NL assists to make existing oral history collections more accessible to the general public, and can help communities start up new oral history projects to interview local seniors. 

Over the course of several years, we’ve come to realize that these projects benefit more than just us as a heritage organization.  Event organizers in particular stressed how beneficial the project was for the seniors of their community, and for community pride. Several people noted the importance of capturing seniors’ stories. A recurring theme was a call to continue to make sure seniors are involved in safeguarding their heritage.

Heritage projects that involve seniors in all parts of the process validate and recognize the contributions of seniors to our communities. They reduce isolation of seniors at risk, and support mental and emotional health and well-being. They also can support mentorship of younger people by their elders through intergenerational exchange.

For more information on how Heritage NL engages seniors in heritage work, email folklorist Dale Jarvis at To see publications resulting from this work go to:

Friday, March 8, 2019

Digital Storytelling: The Secret to Living 100 years with Mary Flynn

Mary's certificate from Pope Francis for her 100th birthday in 2018.
Digital storytelling is a short form of digital media production that allows everyday people to share aspects of their own family and community history. Many people have stories about family members and local places that often go untold. Digital storytelling helps interpret and make community history accessible.

Watch below as Mary Flynn, originally from Shearstown and currently living in Otterbury, Newfoundland, gives her advice on how to live for 100 years:

Or click here to watch the video on YouTube.

If this video elicits memories for you, or if you'd like to arrange a digital storytelling workshop for your community, contact Dale Jarvis at

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Merchants & Memories: What was your favourite shop when you were young?

Merchants & Memories Mug Up
Where was your favourite place to shop when you were young? What stores hold particular memories? Where was your favourite diner or soda shop? Which restaurants had the best service? Who was your favourite butcher, cobbler, hat maker, or dress maker? Where was the best place to buy penny candy? Do you remember your first job? And let's settle that age-old question: who served the best fish and chips in St. John's? We want to know! We'll put the kettle on, you bring your stories.

The Memory Mug Up is an informal story sharing session for seniors, where people gather, have a cup of tea, and share memories.

Merchants & Memories Mug Up
Marjorie Mews Public Library
12 Highland Drive
2:30pm, Wednesday March 29th

photo:  A. Harvey and Company premises. World War II censored photograph collection.
Collection GN 181, Item A 54-149 [1942-1945]. The Rooms

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Living Heritage Podcast Ep007 Food Knowledge and Skills with Sarah Ferber

Sarah Ferber is the Education Manager at Food Security Network NL. Their mission is to actively promote comprehensive, community-based solutions to ensure access to adequate and healthy food for all people in the province. Sarah works closely with community groups across NL to gather, share and preserve food skills and knowledge. In this podcast, folklorist Dale Jarvis talks with Sarah about the "All Around the Table" film series, creating food celebrations with seniors, traditional knowledge, food skills workshops, and advancing farm-to-school and school gardening initiatives.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Documenting and celebrating the voices of seniors

The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador administers the province’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Strategy, working to safeguard traditional culture. The ICH Strategy provides opportunities for community members to come together to share their ideas, experiences and traditional knowledge. Through sharing knowledge, it hopes to open up intergenerational and intercultural conversations about shared values and experiences.

The provincial ICH strategy recognizes, as a guiding principle, that the inclusion of multiple voices, including those of seniors, is important in all work relating to Intangible Cultural Heritage. ICH is kept alive and is relevant to a culture when it is regularly practised, and learned within communities and between generations. In many instances, elders in our communities are the bearers of much of our traditions and customs.

The ICH office has been working closely with Memorial University’s Digital Archives Initiative to store and showcase a number of oral history collections, many of which feature the voices of seniors. Collections are organized thematically or by community. Over the past year, a number of new community collections have been created, notably for Registered Heritage Districts in both Heart’s Content and Bay Roberts. These specific collections focus heavily on the reminiscences of seniors in those communities.

ICH thematic collections cover a number of topics, ranging from calendar customs such as mummering, to craft traditions like rug hooking. Almost all the collections include the voices of seniors, but there are a few collections of note which are particularly excellent examples of the documentation of the voices of elders. Some of these collections include:

The Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery -116 audio interviews
The daily work of the fishery had a profound impact on the culture and history of Newfoundland and Labrador. The particular method of curing fish in Newfoundland (and Atlantic Canada)--soaking in brine and sun- drying on stretches of coastline--led to the development of specific architectural forms, language, and many different aspects of occupational folklore. This collection showcases the history, hard work, and lifestyle of many Newfoundland fishing families.

Voices of Nurses -119 audio interviews
In the mid 1980s Marilyn Marsh interviewed a group of Newfoundland nurses who graduated between 1918 and 1949 and worked in a variety of nursing settings and locations in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) and in several cases internationally.The nurses' stories capture what life was like for women and nurses during that era. Women in the 1920s and 30s had few career options. Most chose to stay in their community, marry and have families. For those wishing to pursue a career, to travel or were adventuresome, nursing provided the greatest opportunities but for many also their greatest challenges. These interviews reveal their lived experiences and provide insight into who they were as women and nurses.

Boatbuilding - 63 audio interviews
This collection of audio recordings highlights the stories, knowledge and skills of Newfoundland boat-builders, several of whom who have passed away since the time of recording. For much of their history, the fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador enjoyed a reputation for making fine boats. Using only hand tools and local timber, they built skiffs, punts or "rodneys", motor boats and schooners, and a variety of other small wooden boats. While the principle focus of these recordings center around the materials and methods used in the construction of inshore fishing vessels, often those being interviewed will provide personal narratives about their lives in early twentieth century Newfoundland and Labrador outports.

Photo: Wilson Hayward showing tourists the art of mending nets, 
at Ryan Premises National Historic Site of Canada. Photo courtesy Parks Canada.