I recently moved to St. Marys and bought a house downtown. The reason for my move was the presence of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
As a long-time Museum volunteer and tour guide, and a frequent visitor to Cooperstown both as a tourist and research conference participant, I can assure you that the artifacts on display here are equally impressive, and important in their historical context, as those of our New York counterparts. The stories behind the displays are just as uplifting, or just as poignant, depending on their circumstance. What’s different between the two Museums is the modern facilities, and the professionalism of the displays. In other words, the substance is the same; it’s only the style that differs.
As well, the Museum’s collection includes a number of items of historical significance. These items could be of great interest to visiting researchers, if we had appropriate facilities to accommodate them.
The Hall’s current proposal to Council requests funding from the Town representing only 8% of the total campaign cost. Additional core funding amounts to 19% of the Hall’s annual operating budget, a level generally lower than other municipal contributions to non-profit cultural organizations in Ontario. And this in return for 100% of the benefits, both economic and cultural.
I encourage my fellow taxpayers, and those elected to represent their wishes, to support the Hall’s well-considered proposal.
My Life in a Page Project
I appreciate the St. Marys Heritage Museum for its rich resources regarding this community’s history, but as a newcomer to St. Marys (we moved here in 2001), I find myself even more interested in the people who are living here right now—in 2016. I see unique individuals on the streets, in the stores, even in my own neighborhood, and I want to know their stories.
Shannan Sword, the CEO of St. Marys Public Library, and I recently met to talk about putting together a book of one-page autobiographies written by people living here or in the surrounding area. Each contributor would write down (or dictate to a scribe) a few meaningful life stories, limiting them to one typed page. Our lives are made up of many stories, so we get to choose which ones to tell. The back of the page could be a collage of photos.
For me this started a few years ago as a writers’ group exercise that I did in my usual last-minute fashion. I called it “Very Short Stories from my Life”. The stories ranged from early childhood memories to encounters with institutional racism in university and where I met my first husband, to work, moving, raising children and taking care of elderly parents. It ends with “I came to Canada to be with Louis. Now I am Canadian.” It was quick and fun to write and so close to one page that I cut it down to fit.
This past October I read my one page auto-biography in a workshop led by Susan Scott, non-fiction editor of The New Quarterly (www.tnq.ca), a leading Canadian literary journal based in Waterloo. I also shared my vision of inviting other St. Marys people, from the longest residents to the newest immigrants, to write their most significant life stories in one page and then putting these bios in a binder at the library, and/or as Shannan suggests, publishing them in a book. Would that be fun to do and read? I have proven to myself that it can be done. An autobiography does not need to fill a book.
Shannon Sword, library clerk Meaghan Everett, and I declare 2016 to be the year of the St. Marys “My Life in a Page project”. So let yourself get inspired and write down those most memorable stories from your very particular and valuable life. I am willing to help by offering “My Life in a Page” workshops at the library or other places, interviewing elders, and suggesting edits, how to say the most with the least amount of words.
Stop by my table at the St. Marys Heritage Fair on the evening of February 19 if you are interested in this collective creativity. Or you can call or email me: 519-284-2698, email@example.com. Let’s write and share our stories, create new heart-filled connections, and leave a legacy for our families and community. Who knows? Maybe our stories will become a resource in the archives of the St. Marys Museum!