Every community has a story to tell.
And when a community strives to promote tourism and economic development, it’s important to distinguish itself from other communities by telling its story.
At UGA, two campus units are working together to help capture local histories in Georgia as a way of preserving the past and boosting economic development.
The Archway Partnership, a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach, is helping take the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies’ oral history program, the First Person Project, to communities across the state to record interviews in Georgia counties.
The First Person Project documents the experiences of everyday Georgians. To date, the Archway Partnership-Russell Library collaboration has taken the oral history project to Sumter and Pulaski counties.
“The Archway Partnership provided us with the connectivity to communities to accomplish our outreach goals and enriched the materials available to students concerning Georgia communities,” said Sheryl B. Vogt, director of the Russell Library.
In February, oral history and media archivists Christian Lopez and Callie Holmes from the Russell Library traveled to Hawkinsville in Pulaski County to record stories about the Ocmulgee River. Interviews were recorded with 12 community members, including a county commissioner and a local author. There were stories about Indian artifacts, the steamboat days, the motorboat club in the 1950s and 1960s, and the more recent Ocmulgee Water Trails Partnership.
“It was a lot of fun reminiscing … about our times on the Ocmulgee River,” said Emmett Head, a Pulaski County resident who participated in the storytelling event. “But, it’s even more important that we save those stories for future generations to hear.”
The Archway Partnership is helping Pulaski County officials develop tourism, in part through fostering an appreciation for the Ocmulgee River. Pulaski County participates in a multi-county partnership to promote the river for economic development. Organized by the National Park Service, the group now boasts a website and is in the process of printing maps for each community. Students from UGA will be working this year to assess the landings in each community.
In Sumter County, the First Person Project recorded eight interviews with citizens who talked about the history of downtown Americus, the tornado of 2007, education in rural communities, industry and business growth and historic preservation. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who grew up in Sumter County, participated in the project by telling stories about his hometown of Plains, his family, his presidency and his return to Georgia.
The Sumter County Tourism Council plans to use the interviews in its promotional pieces.
First Person Project audio interviews and select video footage are online to document the experiences of modern Georgians and to serve community efforts in economic development around tourism. To listen to audio excerpts from the project, visit https://soundcloud.com/russelllibraryoralhistory/sets/fpp_ontheroad. To see former President Carter’s interview, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVPu01WCMuM&feature=youtu.be.