(Library staff processing and rehousing the Alexander Family Papers - AKA the Woodburn Farm Collection)
In anticipation of our public reopening on Saturday (March 12th, yep – this one), we have been diligently finishing up microfilm inventory (600 records in Mercer county), cataloging records and re-housing collections in order to make the library ready for use by patrons again.
All of the fluttering around the library to complete the season has made me think about what I have accomplished in the oral history office over the winter months. Not to even get into the paper pushing, but between January and February I travelled to 11 sites outside of Frankfort – practically one trip a week. I delivered digital workstations and equipment to be used for oral history digitization (EKU and Lindsey Wilson College), I visited with groups of teachers, visited a few college classes (Transylvania and Georgetown), participated in a high school program for Black History Month with the KHS Museum Theatre Dept. (1,100 Woodford County students, yikes!), moderated an OH archival evaluation (WKU), did some actual interviews and most recently spoke with an arts group looking to document their home county through oral history (Mt. Sterling). While I haven’t been that far Southeast or West this season (mostly because of the unpredictability of the weather and planning trips that far – in advance and distance), I have been lucky enough to get out and around.
One of these visits has been recently renewed in my mind this week, so I thought I would share. My visit (turning into an annual one) to the Transylvania University Community Engagement Through the Arts class was unique in the fact that I spent as much time learning from the students there than trying to convey the knowledge I was asked to present. I am continually impressed by the nature of this class – not only is the purpose to get the college students interacting with the North Limestone community, the campus’ neighbor (and not one where students were traditionally encouraged to wander in), but to actively engage with the residents in that community, whether through storytelling, community crafting or just participating in neighborhood events. (this would be through the arts part). The students are really setting the class direction based on the framework set by the professors, Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova, a model that astounds me every time I experience it. I really enjoy watching the class move as a small swarm walking down North Limestone Ave from the manicured lawns of Transy to the back of whatever space they are meeting in this week (restaurants, furniture stores, graphic design studios etc…) In the spirit of self reflection – and part of the grading system, I am sure - the students all write a series of “This I Believe” essays, based on the resurged radio series on NPR and they are encouraged to reflect on what it is they believe and how that may or may not shift as the semester wears on.
This adventure has popped back up in my mind since I was recently contacted by the class to write my own “This I Believe” essay to add to the annual Community Engagements class publication of essays and projects - they continue to "engage". This year, I talked with (not so much at) the class about sense-of-place, tangible and intangible culture and meeting a community through listening to what people who live there value or dismiss. I really had to think about the question for myself long and hard….since I DO believe in this class, I would like to share.
In the mean time, you should see what the class is doing, you can visit their own blog – check out their photos of projects, read their essays, visit their sites – get inspired or at least maybe get some ideas for how this might work for something in your own community.
So, it is a bit self-gratifying to get to visit these sort of places – I tend to get as much out of it as my institution or the place I am visiting (or maybe more, who knows), especially on a non-existant travel budget. Anyone interested on details of any of my other outreach adventures? Let me know...
images: above right: photo from Greg Hardison, Sarah Milligan at the Woodford County High School
above left: Community Engagement Class, photo from Community Engagement blog