Geographic Storytelling and Place-based Oral Histories

 

Place is a center of meaning constructed by experience. Place is known not only through the eyes and mind but also through the more passive and direct modes of experience, which resist objectification. To know a place fully means both to understand it in an abstract way and to know it as one person knows another. At a high theoretical level, places are points in a spatial system. At the opposite extreme, they are strong visceral feeling.

Yi Fu Tuan ~ 1975

Geographic Storytelling

and Place-based Oral Histories

In the Adriatic, each archetype vessel on the numerous islands meets specific community needs, and its characteristics have been developed through time to precisely meet these needs. Whatever role the craft was designed to fulfill, as fishing boat, or ferry, capable of travel on open water or only protected bays, design features have been incorporated into the boat to meet the needs of the inhabitants of these places. The shape, form, and use of the vessels were derived from the cultural and ecological legacies of each particular location.

Learning about these characteristics can only be done by understanding the particularities of each place and role of the traditional craft, and the people who hold this intangible heritage need to pass this knowledge on. At AMI, we believe that youth involvement in the preservation process is essential, as it is the new generation that can benefit most from this knowledge. The summer 2018 programs are no exception. The curriculum will focus on three levels of heritage preservation. Skill-based knowledge in boat building and sailing, environmental knowledge of understanding weather lore, marine ecology, and agricultural techniques, and knowledge, and leadership training to help these young people to build capacity as individuals within their own communities in the future. These are all aspects of intangible heritage, and as our experience has thought us, these skills are invaluable and necessary to pass on to the new generations, but due to their intangible nature they are very difficult to record and document.

 

In order to systemize further the recording of intangible heritage, documentation is a new focus for the AMI programs. Each year, we have paired the younger generation students with elders from the community to learn the skills, trades, and knowledge that have been passed down. This year we will add an extra layer though recording audio and video interviews. Our students will record stories and song and details about historical events so that they may be preserved in several mediums.

One unique aspect of the documentation project will be the incorporation of a geographic element to the story telling. To facilitate the stories that the students are hearing we will use a scale relief map of the Kornati Islands. The elders will point out the locations on the map that events have happened. This will help to construct the stories as in a place-based educational system that can help to bring out a geographical dimension that is not present in standard storytelling framework. The Kornati Islands represent one of the most expansive archipelagos in the Adriatic with more that 130 islands in a 40 mile network of parks and marine protected areas. The areas itself have been used as an agricultural region for several of the mainland groups including the people from the island Murter. The goal of this project is to begin to use standard field methods with our students to build a repository for future generations.

Members of the local community and organizations that work will be a key part of the program talking to the students and teaching them first hand. It will give them a unique perspective on the heritage and traditions of this part of the Mediterranean, and help them understand how important these traditions are, and risks that come with the modern exploitation of the sea and its resources.

Without a change in how historic vessels in the Adriatic are preserved, skills required to maintain them will be left to inexperienced museum professionals. Similarly to how endangered animals at the zoo end up preserved in cases and behind glass cages, so might one day heritage objects of the maritime trades, while the intangible heritage of the coastal, island and river communities will be distant memories and incomplete oral histories. It is our goal at AMI to help preserve that legacy and to do that though the pairing of older and younger generations though this project, these stories, and actual experience. The preservation of these stories serves to not only keep the oral histories alive for future generation but also to help you people build an authentic sense of place and a connection with the environment in which they live.

 

 

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