Tag Archives: natchitoches

La. Folklore Society Presentation: Bringing Communities Together

Speaker’s Notes:

Slide 2:
I was born and raised in Natchitoches.

I lived away a while, working as the communications director for Willamette Industries Southern Region. Willamette was a Fortune 500 forest products company based out of Oregon. They were bought by Weyerhaeser a few years ago.

I came back to NSU in 2001, to get my Master’s in Folklife and Southern Culture.

My research has been about the timber culture of the north Louisiana piney woods.

I knew I wanted to do something with heritage values and began interning with the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, a National Park Service office here is town. I was hired full time as the public information officer there when I graduated school in 2002.

Slide 3:
Turner’s thesis of the frontier in America fits very well within the constructs of the 2009 Louisiana Folklore Society meeting.

Slide 4:
I’ve been involved with social media since it first came on the scene in 2006, I’ve found that many of those same concepts from Turner’s thesis apply to what’s happening on the web now.

Slide 5:
This is how social media functionally breaks down.

There are hundreds of these tools now, with still more appearing on the scene in spite of the economy.

Very few are folding. This is for contextual information only, this presentation does not purport to explain them all!

Slide 6:
But Web 2.0, New Media, Social media or whatever you want to call it, is not about the tools, it’s about people.

So how to does it benefit you or your organization to engage with the new realities of the web?

Slide 7:
Built-in audience with your values

Your content will always be relevant, whether it’s agreed with or not.

Slide 8:
The web now is as easy as launching your browser and filling in blanks.

You don’t need to be a web expert to sign up for services or upload content.

Slide 9:
No domain or storage costs means no headaches or dealing with down servers.

Slide 10:
When I started the Natchitoches Preservation Network one year ago, one of the first things I did was go to the local newspaper and talk to the editor about contributing a weekly column based on the news of the site.

The Natchitoches Times already prints news from local rural communities, and I presented this as a different way to think about a community.

Though it takes a lot of my time each week, I’m essentially getting $250 worth of advertising space for the site while the paper benefits with a fairly well written item on a topic of local interest.

Potential third-party promotion in newspapers still adds credibility to the site.

Slide 11:
Most of these tools are free to use. You don’t have to pay a dime to get your content in front of the world.

And generally, posting your content only takes a few minutes.

Slide 12:
In the past, all media that was created was automatically copyrighted as all rights reserved. That’s changed now with the advent of Creative Commons.

What this lets you do is set perameters for copyright of your online media.

For example, you can specify attribution for your work, or that it can be used strictly for non-commercial purposes.

There are several options, but the end effect is that people can use your content and build on it without having to consult you first.

Slide 13:
Most Web 2.0 tools have some type of measurement built in that helps you understand your audience better. A direct mailer can’t do that very easily!

Slide 14:
I created the Natchitoches Preservation Network to help people to advance and connect to Natchitoches heritage.

Natchitoches has some 30 different groups that have some sort of mandate related to heritage issues.

Though they have traditionally been friendly, they didn’t communicate very well.

Sometimes you may get 10 e-mails or postcards announcing an event, or none at all.

This site was created to get those folks talking and collaborating.

But it was also created to bring in people who were not a part of an official heritage organization.

There’s a perception in many communities that you have to be a Ph.D. or a socialite to participate in heritage activities. This gives those people a safe place to join the conversation about heritage.

Slide 15:
Social media is not about the tools. It’s about people, empowering them and helping them to connect.

Like most networks on the web we have a diverse membership, but they are all invested in preservation Natchitoches Heritage.

Besides the residents of Natchitoches Parish, which form the core of the group, here’s a quick overview of some of our members’ backgrounds…

Slide 16-19 are pretty self-explanatory

Slide 20:
Now, the Natchitoches Preservation Network is a Ning site.

Ning is a service that lets you create your own fully functioning social network for free.

It functions much life facebook and works with most of the popular social media tools found elsewhere on the web.

Slide 21:
Today, I’ll give you an overview of these tools used in the Natchitoches Preservation Network and some ideas about how you might be able to use them as well.

Slide 22-34: Concepts are explained on the slides

Slide 35:
RSS lets you subscribe to web content much like you’ve traditionally subscribe to a newspaper or magazine.

You don’t have to go around to different websites for content, because RSS brings it to you automatically.

When you see the little orange button on a site, you know that you can subscribe to the site and all the content will go to news feed, either in your browser or a news reading program of your choice. I use Google reader personally.

Slide 36:
Lifestreaming tools like Friendfeed take this one step further by aggregating all this content onto one page, allowing you to open discussions on the content.

Lifestreaming tools will import content from many types of services onto one page.

Many prominent bloggers have adopted lifestreaming tools like Friendfeed as their primary form of communication with their audiences.

Slide 37:
Second life is not a service I use personally, but there are those in the heritage field that use it extensively.

Ruth Tringham, U. Berkley, has an Island in Second Life that allows her students to practice archaeology.

There are university graduate degree programs held entirely in Second Life now

Slide 38:
It’s not about the tools. It’s about the people and how you can empower them to do more.

National Landmark "Kate Chopin House" is lost to fire

By Jeff Guin

CLOUTIERVILLE, LA–The Kate Chopin House, named for the legendary feminist writer who lived there during the 1880s, burned to the ground in an early morning fire today. The structure had been named a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of Interior in 1993.

According to Vickie Parrish, president of the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN), the structure’s loss will be felt far beyond the Coutierville community.

“Countless people have invested their time and hearts into the restoration of this structure,” Parrish said. “So much had been done. But the real tragedy lies in how much more could–and would– have been done to make the Kate Chopin house a preservation showcase for the country. So many people loved it.”

The house was in a serious state of disrepair before APHN became steward of the property in 1979. The organization invested in several restoration efforts, including the installation of central air and heat in 1999.

The Creole-style home was built between 1805 and 1809 by Alexis Cloutier using slave labor and exemplifies the building style of that time. Creole architecture is characterized by its spacious galleries, gallery roofs supported by light wooden colonnettes and a form of construction utilizing a heavy timber frame combined with an infill made of brick.

Officials from the National Park Service’s Cane River Creole National Historical Park were on hand this morning to help salvage the few artifacts that survived the fire. The head archivist from the Cammie G. Henry archives at Northwestern State University of Louisiana was also assisting in the recovery.

The contents of the Bayou Folk Museum, which was housed in the Kate Chopin House, were also lost. Local resident Doris Roge’ says the loss is being especially felt in the Cloutierville community because so many citizens had contributed to the museum.

“A lot of people in the community donated or sold pieces for the museum,” she said. “Many pieces belonged to my grandfather. We’ve all lost a part of our heritage.”

Kate Chopin came to Cloutierville  with her husband Oscar, a New Orleans businessman who bought the house in 1879 at a sheriff’s sale. Kate was pregnant with their sixth child and quickly made enemies in the town.

According to Roge’, her grandfather often told stories of Chopin’s then-scandalous public smoking and flirtations with men other than her husband.

Many of Kate Chopin’s most important works, including Bayou Folk and The Awakening are set in Louisiana.

Dr. Lisa Abney is a Chopin scholar and dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Northwestern State University of Louisiana. She believes the burning of the Chopin House is a loss to the literary community as well.

“Kate Chopin’s work is important both nationally and regionally; Chopin’s creative and innovative fiction changed the face of American literature,” she said. “The loss of the Kate Chopin House and Bayou Folk Museum is a tremendous loss to fans of Chopin’s literature and to preservation. This is, indeed, a tragedy to no longer have this important treasure.”

The Kate Chopin House/Bayou Folk Museum is another significant blow to the history of the Cloutierville Community. Several important structures have been lost there over the years including the Carnahan Store, a National Register for Historic Places structure, which burned in 2004.

What caused the fire at the Kate Chopin House is still under investigation.

Photos from the scene of the fire can be seen at the NCPTT Flickr stream.

View more about the salvage operation in the video below:

Thanks for the Legacy

Last week, I spoke to a local historic preservation group about how to use social media to advocate preservation causes. Considering the vast majority of the audience were retired people, the doubtful expressions were expected. There was one face, however, that was encouraging and attentive.

But then again, attention to the needs of preservation and people has always been Saidee Newell’s trademark.

Although I didn’t know “Ms. Saidee” all that well, the loss I felt on hearing of her death Easter Sunday was very real. It’s the same loss being felt by preservation folk all around the world.

Saidee was good at figuring out people’s talents and calling on them when a need arose. It’s how she got so much done, and why she had such a wide circle of friends.

Occasionally, she would call on me to promote some cause or another. I’d jokingly ask her what “hat” she was wearing at the time. The world may never know how many boards, memberships, consultancies, etc., she was actively involved in. One thing you could be sure of is that she was guarding cultural heritage in some form.

As a fellow native on Saidee’s hometown, Natchitoches, La., I wonder if an obsession with protecting heritage is hardwired into our DNA. There’s so much to be proud of. And still so much to do. She knew that. She may not have heard of social media before my presentation but, judging from her questions afterward, her mind was clicking on its potential to get younger generations involved in preservation.

So in launching a site featuring heritage journalism, our first blog post dedicates this endeavor to Saidee’s legacy–a legacy that is still tangible because of her efforts. And one we hope to continue.