Friday, May 18, 2012

A Community Web

Just before the semester ended, Library Media Technician Sandy Olson stopped by Unity House to talk about her other job -- as a volunteer community builder.  Many of us at Unity College are forever grateful to Sandy for helping us solve a frustrating technical problem.  She almost always seems to have the answers when it comes to questions about instructional technology. Friendliness and expertise are both qualities of our Unity College Community.

It's no surprise, then, that Sandy is helping her residential community as well. Along with a few other residents of Troy, she has developed and maintained the Troy Maine Local News site, "a news website that we hope you will come to use like a virtual town hub, a central place to find out about all things local." Features include information about people (births, weddings, deaths), as well as articles about happenings like the Town Meeting, pictured here.

Sandy's interest in this project developed as a confluence of several more specific avocations. She has been a skilled practitioner of digital photography for more than a dozen years, and maintains a website that showcases some of her work.  She says her latest series of photo essays, Watershed, "came about gradually as I spent more time locally exploring both the culture and the nature of where I live."

She is also committed to the concept of community narrative, and to exploring how digital media can connect, or reconnect, people who live in particular geographic areas. "I think it's important to be grounded," she says.  She notes that many Troy residents now work out of town (as compared to 30 or 40 years ago), and that there are only one or two active members of the Grange.  However, in recent years, a number of town committees have been formed, and residents have developed a sense of being some place special.  Troy, for example, is different from Unity -- it is a more rural community, with its own character and landmarks, like the Troy Union Church.

"I'm learning through the whole process," Sandy says, "about the town, the Sebasticook watershed, the local narrative.  And it's all changing so fast." Like many Mainers, Sandy is in favor of nurturing the local economy. One way of doing so might be to expand the website: she hopes to list farmers' produce soon.  But Sandy's main concern seems to be an overarching sense of community.  "How do we connect to each other," she asks, "to the land, to the past?  Is narrative the thread?"

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