Brooksville Library and Historical Society work together to preserve oral history

BROOKSVILLE — Brook Minner, the director of Brooksville’s Public Library, is hearing voices from the past. No, it’s not the spooky, time-traveling kind. Instead, Minner is trying to preserve the oral histories of scores of Brooksville residents, recorded over the course of three decades on microcassettes and VHS tapes.

The recordings cover a wide range of topics, from what it was like growing up in Brooksville in the 1930s to arriving in town during the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s. One tape is about the history of the churches in Brooksville, while another is about the town’s one-room schoolhouses. At least one tape is of local musicians playing.

The tapes and microcassettes are stored at the town’s library and historical society, but Minner is worried they might be vulnerable to destruction.

“There’s just one copy,” she said. “I don’t want someone to pop it in their VCR and risk destroying it.”

Since Brooksville has been celebrating its 200th anniversary all year, Minner thought it might be a good time to seek funding to digitize the recordings. She successfully applied for a grant from the Maine State Archives, which awarded the library $909 to purchase the necessary equipment.

Minner and other volunteers will receive training on how to use the equipment from Hannah Stevens, the archivist at College of the Atlantic. In the spirit of redundancy, Minner and the volunteers will make two CDs of each recording: one for circulation and one for the archives.

The digital files of the audio will also be transferred onto two separate hard drives: one for the historical society and one for the library. The VHS and microcassettes themselves will be taken back to the archives of the library and the historical society.

“One of our goals is to have these up on our website eventually,” Minner said. “So we would need to get permission from the person being interviewed or their immediate family as well as the interviewer.”

Minner also hopes to find a volunteer who would be interested in transcribing the tapes. That way, future listeners can understand the speaker even when the audio quality is lacking or the speaker’s accent is hard to decipher.

Minner said there are far more than 82 oral histories in Brooksville to be digitized. If people would like to contribute their own recordings or find out more information, call 326-4560 or email [email protected]

David Roza

David Roza

David grew up in Washington County, Maryland, has reported in Washington County, Oregon, and now covers news in Hancock County and Washington County, Maine for The American and Out & About.