With every passing day we lose the recollections of the people who have lived through some pivotal times in our city’s evolution. The individual family story becomes the story of a neighbourhood, of our industry, our local businesses, long standing traditions and unique civic character. The Oral History of Sault Ste. Marie captures those stories through videotaped conversations and preserves them for everyone, anywhere, anytime, in a public archive.
The Oral History of Sault Ste. Marie is overseen by a volunteer OHSSM Committee in partnership with the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library, the designated OHSSM public archive.
The OHSSM Committee is responsible for the coordination of interviews and the fundraising required to meet production costs. The Committee also serves as caretakers of the Vision and Goals of the OHSSM, a set of objectives laid out to protect the original intent of the project to benefit all citizens of Sault Ste. Marie.
The Sault Ste. Marie Public Library, as the OHSSM public archive, is responsible for the cataloguing, safekeeping and dissemination of the interviews. Certain uses must be discussed with the OHSSM Committee before the Public Library may proceed.
Each interview is taped by a professional videographer. More conversation, than interview, the taping can take place in the home of the interviewee or other location of choice. To date these conversations have been an average length of 30 minutes but some have been an hour or more.
Each session begins with the person’s full name, date and location of birth. This information is included as a title page off the top of the packaged DVD. One copy of the DVD is presented as a Keepsake and thank you to the interviewee while another DVD is donated to the public archive and uploaded to an on-line virtual library. A release form must be signed before the interview becomes part of the archive.
An important component of the OHSSM is that the histories collected are not censored or edited. Each session stands on its own for use in whole, or in part. This uncensored archive will provide valuable resources to documentarians and educators pursuing a particular theme or area of study. Therefore all interviews are also stored as a raw digital file should such uses arise.
There is a a lot to be learned about the process of oral history collection and the committee/library partnership is committed to establishing the highest possible standard in these early days as we learn through research and hands on experience. We have been slowly recruiting volunteers with experience in research and interview techniques to conduct some of the oral history sessions.
Sault Ste. Marie has a very unique history in Canada as our city has been on maps since the days of Samuel DeChamplain.
No wonder we have SO many stories in our city. And we have only just begun!
The origins of the OHSSM are rooted in the interests of several people, Cathy Shunock and Wendy Hamilton, who value the age old tradition of storytelling. With combined backgrounds in theatre, broadcasting, fundraising and events management they formed a small spearhead committee to navigate the steps toward the establishment of a local Oral History archive in Sault Ste. Marie.
Using the latest in technology to preserve the faces, voices and stories of our past, is, put simply, a good idea. Oral histories have been captured through written documentation and audio taped recordings for generations. Today, this tradition continues in projects around the world and includes the use of video technology. Some examples include Steven Spielberg’s Schoah Foundation project, collecting the stories of victims of the holocaust; StoryCorps, a traveling recording studio that archives its collection at the American Library of Congress; the Carnegie Corporation Oral History Project housed at Columbia University; and The Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University.