“What was it like when you were a kid, Grandma? Did they have computers back then? No internet? How did you find stuff out?”
Conversations around a kitchen table, questions blurted out on a long car ride. Many kids are fascinated by the life stories shrouded behind the day-to-day business of the grown-ups around them. Now there is a new opportunity to have such questions asked and their answers preserved.
“Community Conversations” seeks to match up youth ages nine and up in the area with older Talbot County citizens wishing to share their stories of growing up or moving to the area. A younger citizen will interview an older adult—parent, grandparent, friend, or neighbor—asking questions about what life was like in Talbot County “way back when.”
The interviews will be videotaped by public access channel MCTV and participants will be provided with a copy. Another copy will be kept in the Maryland Room at the Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library and accessible by the general public. Additionally, some video excerpts will be shared here on Easton Savvy.
Inspired by NPR’s “StoryCorps” project, the idea was to create a program that would benefit individual participants as well as the citizens at large. “The goals of the project are to preserve the uniqueness of our community and its history while teaching young people to appreciate the experiences of those who have been here longer and at the same time, providing older residents with an opportunity to share their stories in their own voices,” commented project volunteer Mary Robinson.
Rather than having an outside historian or writer come to the Eastern Shore to research and write about the area’s unique history, Community Conversations seeks to allow locals to tell their own stories in their own words. Preserving these memories creates a valuable legacy for all of us who live in Talbot County whether we are lifelong residents or new to the area and curious about its history.
The Maryland Room at the Easton branch currently houses recordings of more than 80 interviews of area seniors. Community Conversations will add to that historical record while shifting the interview model to incorporate pre-existing relationships between generations.
This program is sponsored by the Jane Lowe Fund, a program of the Talbot County Free Library, which was started to recognize the wide-ranging contributions made by Talbot County resident Jane Lowe, who taught in Talbot County for many years, served on various local government boards including the Talbot County Council, and was instrumental in the creation of the St. Michael’s branch of the Talbot County library. Because Ms. Lowe had a particular love of history and storytelling, the Community Conversations project serves the Fund’s mission to “provide annual programs and/or events that educate children of all ages in the joy of creating and sharing oral and/or written stories”. Community Conversations is funded by money raised during last year’s Jane Lowe Fund silent auction.
Have a story to tell but no one to ask the questions? Eager to interview someone but don’t know who? The library will help pair up strangers to embark on a journey of learning about each other. Not sure what questions to ask? Project organizers have prepared a list of questions to get the conversation going. While many questions will likely focus on “day in the life” topics such as what interviewees did for a living, what the land was like then, what the Eastern Shore was like before the Bay Bridge was built, the subjects of the interviews can be anything that interests participants.
Signing up for the project could represent a wonderful gift to an older adult in your life, whether as an early Mother’s Day gift to Grandma, a special way to mark an important birthday, or a beautiful way to recognize a special milestone. Imagine asking your Pop-Pop about how he first met Mom-Mom and presenting the resulting interview as a 60th anniversary gift.
To register for the program, you can either visit one of the three branches of the Talbot County Free Library (St. Michael’s, Tilghman Island, or Easton) or download the form on the library’s website at www.tcfl.org. The deadline to register is March 31st and interviews will take place on April 14th (St. Michael’s branch); April 21st (Tilghman Island branch); and April 28th (Easton branch).