“Our goal is for Bristol Bay youth to be equally proud of a mother who cleans fish as a father who catches them.”
Katherine Ringsmuth | Project Director
The NN Cannery History Project’s educational component includes a Digital Storytelling Workshop for resident Youth, which underscores the understanding that the caretakers for the cannery history—and the responsibility for its continuity—lies in the community itself. Inspiration for workshop is the local history program, Uutuqtwa: An Historical Magazine of the Bristol Bay Area, which was produced by Bristol Bay high school students in the 1970s-1980s. The student filmmakers made their film during a two-week digital storytelling workshop entitled, “Voice of the Past, Digital Storytelling for the Future,” which took place at the Bristol Bay High School in Naknek from September 24 through October 6 2018 and introduced students research methodology and historic narrative using engaging/interactive digital mediums.
Nineteen Bristol Bay High School students participated and produce 17 short films that documented stories associated with the 128-year-old <NN> Cannery at South Naknek. Films reflect a variety of topics, including Mug Up Stories, Women Workers, and the 1919 Flu Pandemic. Each student received credit from the University of Alaska Bristol Bay Campus. The participating 9th & 10th grade students also created 15 movie posters that reflect their connection to the research materials used in producing their films.
The films were shared with the community at a public screening event hosted in the Bristol Bay School District auditorium and at a public history event hosted by the Bristol Bay Historical Society Museum in conjunction with the NN Cannery History Project team. The films have gained a strong following on social media, have been invited to participate in Anchorage International Film Festival in conjunction with the Alaska Teen Media Institute in Anchorage, Alaska, will be included in the Mug Up exhibition at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, Alaska and shared with visitors from around the world, giving Bristol Bay youth a powerful stage.
The film workshop was facilitated by the nationally-recognized educational consultant, Marie Acemah, owner of See Stories. “This course aimed to connect youth with the past to deepen understanding of their dynamic heritage,” said Acemah. “The acceptance of the students’ film into the [Anchorage International] Film Festival shows that by introducing students to the craft of filmmaking, storytelling and oral history, we can give them the opportunity to become caretakers of their history.” Student filmmakers learned to appreciate their individual stake in their community. As interviewee and former cannery worker BJ Hill stated, “I think if you preserve your local history you enrich your life so deeply, you'll feel like you belong to this land, and you'll be more protective of what happens to it in the future."
The movie poster workshop was facilitated by local artist, LaRece Egli, owner of LaRece Construction. The graphic design component was originally offered to provide a digital design component to meet the curriculum needs of the Bristol Bay Fine Arts teacher Patrica Edel. A student led request to Physical Education teacher Caleb Kresel resulted in the reunion of the entire student body of the digital storytelling workshop for a second digital media workshop. Students in the program each created graphic posters with professional mobile software based on the research and personal narratives they discovered in the film workshop.
Critical local assistance was provided by the NN Cannery History Project’s local curator LaRece Egli, Bristol Bay Borough Martin Monsen Librarian Sheila Ring and Fine Arts teacher Patricia Edel. Generous support for the workshop came from a National Park Service Underrepresented Communities Grant and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. The Alaska Association for Historic Places and the Naknek Native Village Council also assisted in securing funding.