OCEAN PINES – With very few exceptions, much of history is a cobbled-together account of what important people thought about important events. There is little from the perspective of every day people about the every day events that better define an era than any broad overview. Humans have been studying history almost as long as there’s been such a thing, so it’s odd that it took until the 20th century to begin a detailed documentation of everyday existence.
Of course, it’s a little less surprising given the comparative arch of technology. As the camera and the tape recorder came into more common use, more common documentation could be accomplished with it.
Collecting the accounts of people who’ve witnessed an almost unparalleled jump in humanity’s use of and reliance upon technology has since become a particularly worthy pastime, interestingly enough, because of the widening use of that technology.
So when the Worcester County Public Library had the opportunity to begin documenting people’s lives on digital video, they decided that as the most reliable public archivists they had a responsibility to the future to do their best to document the thoughts and stories of the people who have the unique perspective of having lived on the Eastern Shore through these changing times.
“Local history is a fairly significant part of the library,” said Worcester County Public Library director Mark Thomas. “The stories are out there and we’re trying to get them all told.”
The library will be holding several recording sessions, getting people to tell their stories about growing up on the Eastern Shore or working here over the summer; any story critical to understanding what 20th century living was like.
Thomas said they were especially interested in anyone who worked for or owned a cannery or who has vivid memories of the cannery business.
The recording sessions have to be scheduled in advance, in order that there aren’t long lines of people waiting their turn, but having already done a similar program in Pocomoke, assistant director Karen Neville said the volunteer staff who are doing the production are ready to go. “An important part of this project is the interviewing as well as the gathering,” she said.
The volunteers were trained in how to ask the right kinds of questions and how to best lead people along a storyline without becoming part of the story themselves. Thompson added that it was important that the staff help put people at ease.
After the project is completed the interviews will be played on a loop on a Story Telling Station — a standalone flat screen television on a pole — at different libraries on the Lower Shore so people who stop in to the various branches can hear a few stories as part of their library experience. The disks will also be archived for historical use. Both the Story Telling Station and the recording equipment were purchased using a grant from the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore.
Interviews will be held 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10, at the Ocean Pines branch and 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Berlin branch. Anyone interested in participating should contact the library at 410-632-3970 or 410-208-2910 to schedule an interview.