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Street Level Stories: Using Special Collections to Re-Imagine Community Narratives Nicole Dixon firstname.lastname@example.org nicoledixon.ca. writer + librarian. The Bras d’Or Collection.
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BDC = story ideas/material
creating a database is a lot like telling a story (e.g., relationships; collections)
research and creative writing ask the same questions (esp., “why” and “how”)
BDC = Cape Breton revitalization aid
Special collections, databases, and short stories are all tools we can use to re-imagine our collective narratives.
A Tale of Two Reports:
O’Neill Report (2010)
Ivany Report (2014)
“…the commission is calling for an attitudinal change, one where the population collectively comes together to focus on an overarching goal, with each person and sector looking at what they can do to contribute to the province as a whole rather than any one particular area.”
“… [is] the province…destined for a long-term downward-sloping line or the creation of an alternative reality [?] The commission’s hope is the report will serve as a living document that people can build on and use as a guide for future work…”
STU gerontology professor, William Randall:
“...there is this over-arching master narrative which ... sees agingCape Breton as a downhill slide, as a decline ... We need counter-stories. Rich, more positive counter-stories of what agingCape Breton is all about…”
“What if we all cultivated our own good, strong stories and acknowledged our mutual responsibility to strengthen each other’s stories?”
Cape Breton’s story = “narrative of decline”
We need a new story. A narrative of resilience/positivity/action, etc.
community working together
image: Wilgengebroed on Flickr
Kate Beaton:“We had to go, but we want to come back. Leaving is something we learned to do, but I think now and then on what it would be if we were taught to stay instead, and shown we could. If we invited others to join us. I mean, there's a pretty nice view. And like I said, the tea is on.”
“I always say, Forget about ‘write about what you know.’ Write about what you don’t know. The point is that the self is limiting. The self—subjectivity—is narrow and bound to be repetitive. We are, after all, a species. When you write about what you don’t know, this means you begin to think about the world at large. You begin to think beyond the home-thoughts. You enter dream and imagination” – Cynthia Ozick, The Paris Review
“Every community creates its own culture –theway the community memberslearn, through time, how to survive and prosper in a particular place … Our Way is the cultureofcommunity, and something you cannot buy. Nor can it be created by programs. A culture isthe creation of people who are seriously related to each other. It takes time because serious relationships are based upon trust, and trust grows from the experience of being together inways that make a difference in our lives.” – The Asset-Based Community Development Institute
“…local assets [are] the primary building blocks of sustainable community development.”
“The basic tool for community building with the gifts of individuals and of the power of associations is making connections.”
Asset-Based Community Development Institute
The Bras d’Or Collection isn’t just a special collection of Cape Breton’s history, but, by demonstrating our successes and failures and highlighting our local assets, is also the root of and blueprint for an integrated, prosperous, more empathetic, culturally-rich community. It is a collection of our individual yet connected stories.