When the Jeanne Clarke Local History Awards were handed out last week there was no suspense about one recipient. Mark Nelson’s work with the Prince George Oral History Group has created a landmark in the preservation of local heritage. Mark spearheaded a project to create a CD-Rom and internet website that tapped into the pioneer stories gathered by the Oral History Group. All the interviews they have done, thus far, were transcribed into these interactive computer modes for use in classrooms. It is a local history lesson on a disc.
“We had the idea years ago and everybody thought it was a good idea,” Mark says. “At first we thought it would be used by the kids but the school board felt it would be best used as a teacher resource. The information is all on our website, it’s a mirror copy, so anybody can access it anyway. It’s just good to know that our history will be taught in our classrooms.”
“It’s our history. It’s our pioneers that we are hearing and seeing and learning about, instead of someone else’s pioneers we’re learning in the classroom,” says Norm Monroe, director of school services for District #57. “It is an absolutely fantastic project and I can say that because of how they related it to the school. We’ve had some discussion on this for the past several months, and we pulled in some kids from Grade 7 and they took a look at it and gave some feedback on how to improve it as a teaching tool. That doesn’t happen very often in our business. It’s delightful what they’ve (Oral History Group) done, providing it free of charge.”
Seventeen schools will receive the CD-Roms. It will be used for Grades 4 and up. The CD-Rom and website will be updated as the Oral History Group does more interviews with area elders each year. It won’t take so much work for the updates now that the initial groundwork, exhaustive groundwork, has been completed. It took more hours than Mark wants to think about.
“You don’t want to know,” he says, with a tired sigh, “but it’s a hobby. It’s fun at times. It’s challenging at other times.”
The reason it was challenging is because Mark paid attention to detail. These are not just bland transcriptions of interviews with old folks. There are photos, audio clips of particularly interesting stories, cross-referencing features, full written text of each interview and more. “It has to be a labour of love for them, or it wouldn’t get done,” says Norm, marveling at the obvious amount of work involved.
The project was funded by the Prince George Community Foundation. Volunteers (more are needed) from the Oral History Group did the taped interviews with local elders, transcribed the conversations, compiled the data for the computer project and they continue to do this work. See the results on their official website (www.pgohg.dyndns.org).
It is an award-winning endeavor.
Mark Nelson 565-3444 or 564-4372 or cell (961-6082)
Martin Winkelar (with the community foundation) 564-9470
Norm Munroe 561-6800 (with school district)