A story-collecting project in the Keene Valley will celebrate a milestone today: recording 250 stories about life and history in this part of the Adirondacks. It’s called Adirondack Community and can be found at myadirondackstory.org.
Project founder Jery Huntley has logged over 175 stories over the past three years. She said the trick to getting a good story is to be present with the storyteller.
“I would like to reflect and I was told that I was a good listener. The way to get good stories is to listen.
Looking for a way to contribute
Jery Huntley is 72 and technically retired. She has had a long career in politics, environmental policy and communications. She lives half the year in Washington, DC, and half the year in the Adirondacks.
“Six years ago I bought a little house in the woods of Keene Valley. I was retiring and I thought about what I should do to be part of the community and contribute? »
Huntley’s first job was as a librarian, nearly half a century ago. So she started out volunteering and writing grants for the Keene Valley Library. It was there that she and library director Karen Glass cooked up the idea for community storytelling.
“We realized that much of America’s history was tied to the Adirondacks,” Huntley said. “Specifically Keene and the High Peaks region, every war had its place here.”
Short audio stories, photos collected from the library
They wanted to find a way to help local residents and local children understand and experience the place they live in in a different way. The idea they had was “Three to five minute audio stories, very fast,” Huntley said. They started recording and putting the stories with photos on a website, and even partnered with the local school to incorporate the stories into the curriculum.
They also began recording Keene Valley children’s stories. For example, Will Tansey, a high school student from Keene Valley, said he was a teenager when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“I missed prom and spring break, sports I couldn’t take like SATs. And then now in the summer, I’m going to plan to work at the hardware store, which is very different from what it was. This will be my third year working there. And it’s not the same everyone wears masks and you know, some people don’t even come into the store. However, Keene Valley is Keene Valley and everyone comes together when needed.
Many stories are historical.
Donna Reed Austin spoke about her grandfather, who was a tax collector for the town of Keene from 1916 to 1920. She was a tax collector for the town and county for 20 years, beginning in 1998.
“Nobody likes to pay taxes. So I tried to make it as pleasant as possible. I had the idea that when people came to city hall to pay their taxes or their school, I would give them peppermint pancakes. And when some of the people who had to pay higher taxes would come in and be like, ‘God, that’s a $5,000 peppermint pancake,’ I would look at them and say, ‘Don’t eat it all in one bite. .'”
Expansion across the United States
The Adirondack Community Project has been recording stories since the summer of 2019. And it’s also grown much larger than upstate New York, Huntley said.
“Six months after we launched it, I started thinking that other communities might do exactly what we did!”
Huntley has written a book and created online resources to help other communities recreate their own storytelling project. The template is called StoryBridge. There are about 15 other projects in progress or underway.
“There are now projects that have started from Alaska to Oregon to Kentucky,” Huntley said. “In all the countries!”
Huntley said starting the Keene Valley project and helping other communities do the same has been hugely rewarding.
“People might have expected me to be a country club woman or something. Certainly not.”
She said she didn’t know how not to work.
Today, Saturday, July 23, at 2 p.m. at the Keene Valley Library, the Adirondack community will celebrate the recording of over 250 stories. Huntley said local residents, and anyone else, are invited to come hear stories and celebrate this milestone.