30x185 spacer

Participants sought for Crowsnest Pass history project

Wednesday, 16 January 2019. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Participants sought for Crowsnest Pass history project

History student Shannon Ingram is excited to learn about the Crowsnest and its people. As an intern and researcher at Crowsnest Museum and Archives, she’s collecting stories of days gone by.   Photo by Jess Harrington

Participants sought for Crowsnest Pass history project

By Jess Harrington

Stephen King once wrote, “I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event,” and Shannon Ingram would probably agree.

Shannon is the current intern at the Crowsnest Museum, and the facilitator of a new oral history project that aims to examine what life was like for real, local people in the recent past.

Specifically, she’s looking to interview people who lived in what is now the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and simply gather their memories and impressions of those times.

Shannon, 27, is pursuing her master’s in history at the University of Lethbridge, and her work with this project will count toward her degree.

A project advisory committee of local historians has provided her with a list of 270 potential interview candidates. Under the terms of her contract, she must conduct at least 50 interviews before her term with the museum expires in May — an intense task, perhaps, as she started conducting her first interviews last week.

But Shannon says she’s looking forward to the work, and considers it important.

“I enjoy speaking with people, I enjoy when memories are sparked, and I enjoy understanding the lived experiences of people that are not included in overarching, general historical [narratives].”

“How did people react, how were they impacted by historical events?” is Shannon’s guiding question. “I think [this type of project] adds to a more nuanced understanding of history.”

Shannon also says she’s excited to practise the art of drawing out those nuances in Crowsnest Pass. While originally from Coaldale, she’s no stranger to the area, having worked at the museum last summer, and at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre in 2017 and 2015.

“The Crowsnest Pass is unique in the sense that it has a very well-documented history and the community is very passionate about the stories that circulate within [it],” she says, adding that this makes the Pass an easy and natural place to conduct an oral history project.

While Shannon has a wealth of potential interview subjects available to her, anyone who would like to share their recollections of that time is more than welcome to reach out of their own accord.

Interview subjects will be asked both pointed and open-ended questions in a way that should allow them to talk about whatever topics they wish. The interviews will also be filmed, and participants will need to sign waivers.

At the end of the project, Shannon’s results will be catalogued and made available at the museum.

This is the fourth oral history project the museum has conducted. Similar work was done in the 1980s, in 2003-04 and in 2008-09. Shannon hopes her oral histories won’t be the last collected.

“I really hope there’s a kind of interest that grows from people that maybe weren’t as involved in the community from this project,” she says. “I hope that people realize there is such a richness to the lived experiences of all people in this community and see the need for preservation of those histories and conversations.”

In addition to working on her research, for the next few months Shannon will be helping to fill a staffing shortage created by the temporary departure of executive director Chris Matthews, who is on parental leave until mid August.

Chris says the museum will also need volunteers to fill in the gaps while he is away. With that in mind, staff and board are holding a volunteer information day on Jan. 23 in hopes of attracting new members.

Anyone who would like to learn about volunteer opportunities is invited to pop by the Crowsnest Museum next Wednesday between 10 a.m. and noon, 1 and 3 p.m., or 6 and 8 p.m.