Bringing to life Valley's past and present


 

Students in the School of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication are assisting JMU Libraries and Educational Technologies with the launch of an initiative aimed at capturing, creating and curating life in the Shenandoah Valley. 

The Shenandoah Living Archive will include both born-digital materials (oral histories, images, video, geospatial data) and physical materials (diaries, fliers, pamphlets). 

“The goal of the archive is to reflect the vivid tapestry of past and present life in the Valley by encouraging creativity and opportunities for community engagement,” said Genya O’Gara, director of collections at JMU Libraries and Educational Technologies.

Students enrolled in WRTC assistant professor Dr. Sean McCarthy’s Digital Rhetoric class were assigned to create a multimedia prototype to showcase the possible directions that the archive can reach. Students, faculty and Shenandoah Valley community members came together on Dec. 3 for the unveiling of the prototype digital archive.

The students created five exhibits based on items housed in JMU Libraries Special Collections: photographs that document the Newtown neighborhood prior to urban renewal; a cookbook that dates to 1855; and a collection of oral histories that document the lives of community members who lived on land that now belongs to the Shenandoah National Park. The exhibits also featured the local refugee population and the Mennonite community in the Valley.

“Getting to know more about the community we live in has been the best part,” said Michelle Logan, a junior media arts and design major. “I feel more of a sense of community.”

"The goal of the archive is to reflect the vivid tapestry of past and present life in the Valley by encouraging creativity and opportunities for community engagement." — Genya O’Gara,
director of collections at JMU Libraries and Educational Technologies

Early this semester the students brought to life the 1855 cookbook with the help of Tassie Pippert, a hospitality management professor. They prepared recipes from the cookbook using authentic ingredients and cooking techniques at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market. 

Using early maps of Harrisonburg, the students traced the outlines of homes that occupied the area that is now the parking lot of the Rockingham County Community Development Building. The students used a drone attached to a camera to record the impact of urban renewal on downtown Harrisonburg. Typically only occurring in high-density areas, urban renewal affected Harrisonburg in the early 1960s. For a video of the project, click here.

The event also included a panel discussion of the archive’s future as a space to learn more about the Valley’s history and culture. Audience members suggested making the archive easily available to local high school students. They also suggested the archive feature the Valley’s immense cultural diversity and the LGBT community.

“This project has pushed the students outside of their comfort zone and into the community. These students are the definition of an engaged university,” said McCarthy. “It’s far beyond what any of us could have expected.”

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Jordan Bogner (’15)

Dec. 8, 2014

Published: Monday, December 8, 2014

Last Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2016

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