Volunteer interviewers sought for Northfield oral history project

  • Sunderland residents and oral historians Carrie and Michael Kline will be training Northfield residents interested in volunteering for an oral history project leading up to the town’s 350th anniversary celebration. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/21/2022 3:49:05 PM
Modified: 4/21/2022 3:47:48 PM

NORTHFIELD — As the town prepares for its 350th anniversary in 2023, it is seeking to train up to 16 people in the art of listening and preserving local knowledge through an oral history project conducted by Sunderland residents and oral historians Carrie and Michael Kline.

The free training is open to both Northfield and area residents, with the expectation that those trained will conduct interviews with Northfield residents leading up to the anniversary celebration.

Two interviewing training sessions will be held, with the first taking place on Sunday, April 24, and the second happening on Sunday, May 1. Both sessions will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Centennial House Bed and Breakfast at 94 Main St. Those interested in becoming a volunteer interviewer can contact the Klines at Kline@folktalk.org or call 978-894-4625.

Joan Stoia, a member of town’s 350th Anniversary Committee and co-owner of the Centennial House, said the project started because stories are powerful and they can quickly vanish if left undocumented.

“A lot of us are concerned that a lot of those stories are going to disappear,” Stoia said, adding that many people in town are “frankly, getting older. They worked at the hotels in the summer, they worked at the Chateau and they worked at the farms as kids. They’ve seen the ups and downs.

“It’s too precious to let go,” she added.

Using their “Listening for a Change” methodology, the Klines are seeking to expand Northfield’s ability to preserve the history of all residents by training people to listen and collect their stories, which will be available at the Dickinson Memorial Library.

At the trainings, people can expect lessons on being an active listener and how to use recording equipment, according to Michael Kline. The Klines have 30 years of experience creating similar history projects.

“We have an approach to interviewing (that) is very open-ended. It’s not based on a questionnaire or asking lots of questions,” Kline said. “It’s not investigative reporting, it’s recording local memory and knowledge. … We want the person’s memory to unfold as they choose to unfold it.”

Kline said the voice bank at the library will be “intrinsically valuable” to the town’s historical record.

As interviewers are being trained, the town is also seeking Northfield residents who are interested in telling their stories about the town from all points of view. To recommend yourself or others to be interviewed, contact Northfield350news@gmail.com.

Once interviews are complete, they will be categorized by theme and may be brought to life in theatrical, documentary or digital forms, through informational panels or productions made during the town’s anniversary year. All stories of Northfield — whether they are current, past, year-round, lifelong or transplant residents — are welcome as they all help people develop a feeling for life in Northfield through a variety of lenses and perspectives.

Interviews will begin after volunteers are trained and will run through the summer and fall.

Stoia said this project can help people learn about a wide range of historical topics in town while also preparing them for the future.

“Things are changing really fast, how are we preparing as a community to live our lives differently. We just lived through a pandemic and there will be stories about that,” Stoia said. “We’re really optimistic because we know the talent that’s here and the caliber of the people who are our neighbors.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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