One of our museum’s projects for 2011 (and beyond) that we are very excited about is our collaboration with the Otsego Northern Catskills Board of Cooperative Educational Services’ (ONC BOCES) Creating Rural Opportunities Partnership program (CROP). Along with creating wonderful acronyms, the BOCES CROP program provides after-school opportunities for students by partnering with dedicated community organizations, including the Roxbury Arts Group, Learning for Life, the LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions, and more.
For the next three years Hanford Mills Museum will be working with CROP students in grade levels 5-8, in a photography project we’re calling Our Hometown. The students will use disposable 35mm cameras to record their lives in the town they live in. The idea is simple: students are asked to photograph the people, places, and activities that are important to their sense of home and are integral to the lives of the townspeople. This can include historic buildings, important & familiar people, activities at school and home, popular gathering places, special events, common jobs and workplaces, and much more. The students are not restricted in what they can photograph, so long as they are making these kinds of considerations.
Each student will receive three cameras over the course of the school year to take their pictures. After each round of cameras is processed, museum educator and photographer Kevin Gray meets with the students to do a critique of the pictures. They discuss the artistic quality of the pictures including composition, color, and content, as well as the meaning of the pictures and why particular objects and activities were photographed. With this information and some new photography tips under their belts, the students then go out with a brand new camera to record some more. In the spring, the students will be asked to look through the many pictures they have taken and select three that will be framed and exhibited at Hanford Mills Museum during the summer. These three photos should be the best choices to tell the story of the students’ hometown that they want to tell. The students will also be asked to write a short essay explaining their selections, what the photographs depict, and what they learned about their town while doing the project.
Hanford Mills Museum will be working with four schools each year for the next three years as part of this project. During the 2010-2011 school year we are working with Andes, South Kortright, Milford, and Edmeston Central schools. Six to twelve students in each school have decided to take part in the project, and so far many of their photographs have been very interesting. At the top of this post are two examples: Laurynn Weaver’s picture of Andes Central School on the left, and Alyssa Grocott’s image of her parents’ Edmeston farm on the right. Again, these may not be the images that these girls choose for the final exhibit, but they do represent very well the kinds of pictures we hope to see at Hanford Mills Museum next summer. We feel that this exhibit will be a wonderful complement to our own Hanford family photography exhibit we will present next year (more on that soon!) Stay tuned for more updates, including a link to a Flickr page of many of the photographs!