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Generations Portal

The Veterans History Project, National Public Radio programs, StoryCorps, YouTube, scrapbooks, digital photo albums, and personal blogs--Americans today are vitally involved in telling their stories. Like photographs or mementoes, documentary films stimulate storytelling about people's own lives. Many Folkstreams films can inspire intergenerational conversations and experiences. With this in mind, we invite viewers to create opportunities to connect young people and elders, allow for reminiscence and life review, and build a sense of community among people of all ages.

Background

Our personal folklore is often invisible to us, like water is to a fish. "Doesn't everyone do that?," we might ask. Well, no! Folklore is universal but it is also unique to individuals and communities. We advocate using Folkstreams films to raise questions and spark discussions among senior citizens and in mixed groups of young and old, giving value to aspects of an older person's life that may be so close that they themselves are unaware of them as "interesting." Looking back on "The Film of Your Life" is useful not only as biography, revealing perhaps a consistent order and significant drama, but as a way of sharing elders' wisdom with their children, grandchildren, friends, and community members.

Folklorist Daniel Patterson writes "the subjects of many Folkstreams documentaries are community scholars, experts in locally specific traditions that bespeak a region, an era, a family. These cultural insiders are virtuosos of the traditions shown. They give viewers access to authorities whom they cannot find in academia and are rarely given voice in books. The films accordingly are extremely important social and aesthetic documents. The films are also valuable historical documents, not only because they take viewers directly into social worlds (the work, play, struggles, and worship of often extraordinary ordinary people) now passing more and more into the historical past, but also because the films themselves are the products of historical movements and attitudes. They preserve the life of specific times and places and also embody the limitations and opportunities, the ideologies and insights of their makers."

Folkstreams films empower community scholars, the experts of "I remember that because I did it." The films give voice and approval (even praise and reverence) to the accomplishments of older people and hence can unleash memories, giving seniors a sense of their unique value. Watching these films can inspire them and allow them to realize the importance of their own past and experiences, to pay attention to the little, close things in their lives that they take for granted, those things that are the stuff of folklife studies.

We invite viewers to bring generations together at home and at intergenerational programs in libraries, community centers, senior centers, churches, synagogues, historical societies, schools, and museums. Below we recommend topics to enhance intergenerational storytelling and resources to augment exchanges, including our Folkstreams Discussion Guides.

Suggested Topics

Swapping stories in reciprocal interviews is an alternative to one-way interviews. Older people can ask younger people about their lives as well as vice versa.

Personal and Family History

  • What is the story of your name?
  • The names of your family members?
  • How far back can you trace your family past your grandparents?
  • Where did your ancestors come from? What languages did they speak?
  • What kinds of work did your father and mother do?
  • Where have you lived and traveled?
  • What kind of work have you done?
  • How much schooling have you had?
  • Do you have any family photo albums?

Family and Community Traditions

  • What do you remember about the house that you grew up in? The community?
  • What are the special occasions that your family celebrates?
  • What are the homemade foods that you love? What recipes do you want to hand down?
  • What were your favorite games as a child?
  • What music has meant most to you?
  • What kind of dancing do you know and remember?
  • What kinds of medicine did you take when you were sick?
  • Did your family use any home remedies?
  • How were they made?
  • Which are still in use today?
  • Who were your childhood heroes?
  • Your heroes as an adult?
  • What are your favorite pastimes and hobbies?
  • Do you remember any stories that were told to you as a child? (Ghost stories, local legends, tales about family members, jokes, riddles)
  • What is an obstacle that you overcame?
  • Where and how do you express your religious life (or not)?

Exploring Intergenerational Films on Folkstreams

Paddy Bowman has designed three guides as examples for Intergenerational discussion:

But all the films on Folkstreams lend themselves to intergenerational discussion. To start, we suggest that you use the "Browse" functions in the left sidebar to pick films that are about the times, geographic areas and customs that are close to you. Clicking on "All Films" which display all films in alphabetical order. Clicking on "subjects" will show a list of subjects like "music" or "arts and crafts" or "religion" with a list of films under these headings. Clicking on "Regions" will help find films made close to where you live. Explore!

Resources

These online guides provide rich ideas and essential tools for intergenerational interviews and documenting community culture.