Behind "Our Home Town"
Time is Running Out
As a nation, we are really doing a poor job in documenting the history of our towns and villages. In most instances, there has been a major change in its population -- people have moved out, new people have moved in, people have died, there have been new births. Additionally, new homes have been build, business have change or even closed, and towns are either decaying, staying the same, or enjoying growth. Regardless of the state of health of the community, the early history, in most cases, is being lost for lack of documentation. And, time is running out.
We, in Lowry, MN (population 247), have produced a number of products to help bring to the forefront the history of our small town. The process was evolutionary; it was not part of a master plan. But, out of this process, we found something that works for us, and it may provide some assistance to small towns through the country in their documentation. Our products may not be the right thing for your community but it should spark the dialog for your communities documentation plan.
A note from the photographer and producer: In October, 2001, I photographed all of the buildings -- homes and businesses -- in Lowry. As mentioned, Lowry is a small town and the photo session took less than 2 hours. It was my intent to produce a Power Point Presentation showing all of the homes in town and then listing all that had lived there since we can remember. I added the businesses and wanted a history of who had occupied those buildings. A number of immediate friends were contacted and their task was to put names to the buildings. Unfortunately, my friends had since moved from Lowry and were unable to remember much about the occupants. Fortunately, one of my friends contacted his sister in the area and she in turn contacted others. It happened that a group of locals were meeting every morning for coffee at the Lowry Hatchery Bar and Grill. I had sent them a copy of all the photos and asked them to help. They took it on as a task. What they sent me for the Power Point Presentation was not what I expected which was a listing of occupants. They sent me a background description of each building and its occupants which lead the way to a publication and a real personal history of the village.
Our products include:
1) "Our Home Town" Publication -- This is an 85-page publication showing photos of all the buildings along with a history of each.
2) "Our Home Town" CD -- This is a 45-minute Power Point self-running presentation showing all of the buildings in town and all of the occupants to the best of our memory. It also includes historical photos of the town and buildings that have since been razed. It is a fast moving presentation with music.
There may be instances where people in other areas may want to embark on their historical documentation of their community. We can possibly be of help with the following comments:
1) There has to be a core group that is willing to see this thru. It takes a lot of time, not only in the writing and confirmation of information, but in the editing and re-editing of the copy. The main group of "researchers" were located in Lowry and the publisher was in Mesa, AZ which created some production problems in logistics.
2) It is also very important that the older members of your community get involved. In Lowry, we had several of the collaborators in their 80s and this was, in my opinion, the most crucial in gathering historical data.. Many of the group were in their 70s or late 60s and they did not remember many of the anecdotes recalled by the elder statesman. That is why it is so important to get started on the project before our most treasured citizens are still able to provide assistance.
3) The buildings were photographed by a digital camera. It sure cut down time in not having to scan the photographs to bring them into the publication. We used Microsoft Power Point for the production of the CD and Corel Ventura for the publication. Another suggestion would be to use Page Maker for the publication (I found it hard to use for what I wanted to do, but then I used Ventura when it was a DOS program). Power Point was chosen because it came with a viewer which would permit it to be a self-contained presentation which could be run on a computer without purchasing the program.
4). It was only recently that we decided that we would develop a web page. There were so many things that could not be included in the CD and publication because of space and time constraints. These included persons who had written their autobiography, other historical anecdotes that were remembered after the publication, some families wanted their photos displayed, and other interesting items that would enhance its historical value.
5) We decided to hold a "premiere" of the publications which was held in the Lowry Community Center this past August 02. We showed the CD presentation on a large screen, announced and showed the outline of the new web page, and offered the visitors the opportunity to purchase the publication and CD. We also had for sale hats and caps with "The Lowry Group" logo. We also served chocolate chip cookies and coffee -- a good community get-together.
6) We have decided to incorporate "The Lowry Group" as a non-profit organization and to use it as the vehicle for the sale of the publications and promotional items and in the distribution of any profits or donations for the community good. We are encouraging the youth of Lowry to get involved not only in offering suggestions for constructive work of the organization but in helping in the maintenance and development of the web page. We really want this to be a community effort.
Please feel free to contact us for any questions or help we might provide for your project. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will respond as quickly as possible.
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