The Final Weeks of Field Work
The final weeks at TAUNY were filled with more fieldwork, data processing, and finishing up all our projects so that our work can be used later on. My co-intern Joel and I have documented and/or interviewed about 20 of the Heritage Award recipients these past weeks, and this week it was time to tie it all together. Because our work is supposed to help prepare for the upcoming exhibit on the North Country Heritage Awards, we were invited to sit down and think about common threads that we had found between all the stories we had gathered. It was a fun thing to do, and really made me think about how museum exhibits are created.
Our recent field visits included some great interviews and experiences. One of my favorite visits was with Dawn, a lovely lady who organizes monthly community gatherings at her house in the woods. She has everyone sit in a circle in the living room, and then performs songs with her guitar for about an hour. Then, they all have lunch together, followed by some more music. Between songs, everyone is invited to share stories. Most of the attendees were senior citizens, and this monthly meeting is an important community activity to them. I loved being there; everyone was kind and welcoming, and the atmosphere as a whole was very soothing. Dawn is one of the most inspirational women I have met. Though our main goal was documenting the event, it was just great being welcomed into the community as well.
Another great recent trip was our visit to Big Moose Chapel, deep into the Adirondacks. Once a year, they hold a Balsam Bee, where the community comes together to make balsam pillows. On our way there, Joel and I weren’t too excited; making pillows sounds pretty boring and, forgive the pun, stuffy. But it turned out just great. Once we reached the chapel, which is right at the lake, we were put to work pretty much right after a short tour. We ground the balsam, stuffed the pillows, and sewed them closed. Meanwhile, we were taking pictures and videos as well as talking to the people around us to learn more about the event and what it means to those involved. We came away with everything we needed for our research, as well as a great experience and a nice, hand-made balsam pillow.
Besides continuing our fieldwork, I also finished up a side project: an online map showing all the North Country Heritage Award recipients. It was quite a bit of work, because after 25 years of awards, there are about 100 recipients. I am quite proud of the final result, although it was also an exercise in working with limited resources, as the software and server that would have really helped make this good map a great one are a little out of reach for a small non-profit like TAUNY.
Looking back on my time at TAUNY, it has been a great summer. I got to learn a lot about folklore and tradition, particularly in the North Country. I met a lot of inspiring people that work hard to become masters of their trades and crafts, and attended community events that were just filled with kindness and happiness. I gained experience doing fieldwork as well as office work, and got to work with all the amazing, caring, passionate people at TAUNY. All in all, I am so glad for the opportunity to have done this, and I can’t wait to continue this kind of work once I go to graduate school!