Biblio Blog: Weaving Words of Wisdom: Intergenerational Life Writing

WWOW!

WWOW is the acronym for Weaving Words of Wisdom: Intergenerational Life Writing, an art exhibition commissioned with a forthcoming publication Weaving Words of Wisdom as the foundation.

Students mentored by English Professor Dr. Jocelyn Williams, were paired with residents of our campus neighbour United Active Living (UAL) in a collaboration to capture their legacy through a life writing project of shared stories. Dr. Williams describes this rewarding generative endeavour:

“One of my areas of expertise is Life Writing or Autobiographical Writing, so this project was a natural fit for me.  We had the option to make it part of a course but thought the relationships between the older adults and the students would grow more naturally and sincerely if they weren’t tied to classwork.  Indeed, our storytellers and writers volunteered their time so wholeheartedly, they showed intergenerational collaboration is so much more than assignments and meetings.  Their new friendships blossomed into everlasting bonds and brought into action the apt title of the forthcoming collection of their memoir writing: Weaving Words of Wisdom.  The exchange between the older adults and St. Mary’s students has renewed my faith in the power of deep communication and shared experience.”

A formal reading of the stories brought all the participants together February 8 in celebration and recognition of the yearlong project. In spite of the ice-cold weather outside, the Heritage Centre space was warmed by the heartfelt stories of older adults read aloud by St. Mary’s University students. The audience was regaled with anecdotes that illustrated the personal memories, poignant moments, and adventures in their lived experience. Detailed accounts of travels abroad, wartime, marriage and family, career milestones, and fond childhood memories were endearing touchstones that all could relate to.

One of these captivating stories of times past was captured at The Gerry and Anna Maier Special Collections Reading Room in the campus Library.  Project photographer Daniel Melvill Jones depicted St. Mary’s University student Cheyenne Fordham and her UAL project partner Adele Lytle.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Melvill Jones.

“Chey’s story focuses on Adele’s love of books, especially fairytales with a happy ending. Adele’s eyesight is starting to fail, forcing her to rely on audiobooks, so for the photoshoot I took them into Special Collections, where Chey read Adele the happy ending of her favourite fairytale.” Daniel Melvill Jones

In another connection to libraries, St. Mary’s University student Annisha Plesche shared the story of her project partner Val McWhir who found love in the stacks when she met her then future husband in a library.

Bookends, 2019, Annisha Plesche Val’s memories of times past and present joys

The creative storytelling process wove a rich tapestry of human connection expressed through mixed media artistic output. The memoirs come to life in the WWOW exhibition on display at the Mauro Gallery in the historic Water Tower.

In the Mauro Gallery, visitors are greeted by striking black and white portrait photographs that depict participants with dignity and pride. This flows into an adjacent space with a pair of vibrant acrylic landscape paintings that are the work of Kyrie Bouscal and her grandfather Tim Relf. A kaleidoscope of colour animates the room with vivid recollections of the past.

Photo of the creative process provided by United Active Living. The Way it Was, Kyrie Bouscal (L) and Tim Relf (R): Learning how far we’ve come from where we’ve been

In closing, the seeds of knowledge passed from one generation to the next can be experienced in their entirety in the forthcoming St. Mary’s University Press publication Weaving Words of Wisdom.


Blog Post Written By: Catherine Carlyle, Library Services Specialist

Catherine joined the StMU Library team in April 2018. Prior to joining StMU she managed physical and electronic collections for libraries and cultural institutions in Canada and England. Notably, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, and Harrow Libraries, London, England. Her interests lie in living cultural heritage, preservation of collections, and art history.


Acknowledgments

Publication

Dr. Williams (Project Mentor) and Editor

Delaney O’Flaherty, Student Editor

Dr. Hyland-Russell, Managing Editor of publication and St. Mary’s University Press

WWOW Exhibition

Co-curated by Dr. Hyland-Russell and Catherine Carlyle

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