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Telling our stories. To each other and the world

Monday, April 28, 2014   by: Carol Martin

It began with an idea to capture personal biographies of Saultites.

But, when Wendy Hamilton met with Cathy Shunock at the Canadian Motor Hotel back in April 2011 the project morphed into something much bigger.

Something that 's taking on a life of its own.

The Oral History of Sault Ste. Marie project has been three years in the making and is about to officially launch a website with links to narratives by Saultites who have moving, entertaining and sometimes difficult stories to tell about our community.

The first interview was with Dorothy Kucher who, with her sister Jane Barsanti, operated the Root River Golf Course clubhouse from the mid 60s through several decades.

"I had wanted to capture the stories from James Town, stories I grew up listening to and continue to hear today," said Shunock. "So that's where we started but it's grown much more from there."

She and Hamilton hired videographer Gary Huckerby to bring an element of professionalism and sophistication to the project and, about a year into it, Karen Montgomery-Jones joined Hamilton and Shunock to form a volunteer committee steering the process of capturing stories from Saultites.

"Sault Ste. Marie needs its oral histories archived," said Montgomery-Jones. "The essence of a city is its people and the stories of those people."

Hamilton said interviews are often done in the subject's home because that is where they feel most comfortable and some of the stories they tell are difficult.

Stories about wartime memories both in the Sault and abroad, depression era memories, stories of racism in the Sault and so much more has been dealt with in the 40 interviews about to be released.   

Shunock, Hamilton and Karen Montgomery-Jones say they hope to establish the project with a more formal and sustainable structure and that it will continue long after they are gone.

"It just keeps mushrooming," Hamilton said. "We made a presentation to a group of men at the Marconi club and 13 out of 13 of them signed up as soon as we finished." 

It seems like each person the committee interviews gives another five or six names to follow up on, too, she added.

Last fall the committee finalized an agreement with the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library that will see the interviews archived at the library and available to anyone with access to the internet.

The site, hosted by the library, will be officially launched on Wednesday, April 30.

To mark the occasion the Oral History of Sault Ste. Marie volunteer committee, in partnership with the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library, will be hosting a reception by invitation that will include people interviewed, their families, members of the media and others.  

For more coverage on the Oral History of Sault Ste. Marie project, head to LOCAL2.ca.

The full text of a release on this project and the upcoming launch of the oral history videos follows.

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Videotaped oral histories now available at Sault Ste. Marie Public Library
 
The Sault Ste. Marie Public Library is pleased to announce the launch of a new archive aimed at preserving our local history through storytelling.
 
The archive is in partnership with The Oral History of Sault Ste. Marie (OHSSM), a project founded by a volunteer committee to capture community history through videotaped conversations with local citizens.
 
People anywhere in the world are able to access the interviews online through the public library website.
 
“We are honoured to house this unique and important collection,” says Kevin Meraglia, Archive Technician at the Public Library. “Oral histories allow patrons to learn about the history of their community through individual personal experiences.”
 
Forty interviews have been collected to date, and the OHSSM/Public Library partnership believes the collection will continue to grow for many years to come. 
 
“The response so far has been extremely positive, almost overwhelming,” says Cathy Shunock, OHSSM founding volunteer. “Weʼve been working under the radar on this project in order to get much of the groundwork in place before going public. We think we have begun something the entire community will be very proud of.”
 
An important component of the OHSSM is to provide resources to documentarians and educators pursuing a particular theme or area of study.
 
Interviews are catalogued with searchable tags such as Algoma Steel Corporation or James Street and also stored as a raw digital file.
 
“Thereʼs a lot to be learned about the process of oral history collection and weʼre committed to establishing the highest standard in these early days,” states Wendy Hamilton, OHSSM founding volunteer. “Itʼs about ongoing research into other oral history archives and the hands on experience.”
 
Visit the OHSSM website at www.ohssm.ca for more background and an informational video.

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Comments
3
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BIG BROTHER 4/28/2014 9:05:47 AM Report

Great idea. I just wish it would have been around for my Ftaher's generation. The War stories, Gore Street, etc.
soowat 4/28/2014 9:35:51 AM Report

Congratulations on bringing a great idea to fruition,
blue diamond 4/28/2014 1:24:27 PM Report

Possible they could hook up with SSM Museum who have a number of you tube presentations posted.

https://www.youtube.com/user/saultmuseum


Just a thought.
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