Category: Heritage

Les Fruits de Mer Association Launches Mobile Heritage Preservation Studio

Les Fruits de Mer volunteers record oral history interviews.

The Les Fruits de Mer association is thrilled to launch their new mobile heritage preservation studio. The portable studio can go anywhere. It is made to capture and preserve culture and heritage through oral history and other forms of archiving.

“We wanted to create a small mobile system so we could record heritage all over the island,” said Mark Yokoyama, co-founder of Les Fruits de Mer and Amuseum Naturalis. “It’s simple, it’s not pricey and it lets us document heritage on the go.”

The studio includes a scanner for photos, letters, and memorabilia, and a photo kit for heritage objects. A basic audio and video kit makes it easy to record interviews. Island Gems generously donated some of the items needed for the studio.

Heritage items are carefully photographed at Amuseum Naturalis.

“Over time, photos, letters, diaries, and other memorabilia become key records of culture, heritage and history. They are vital clues to how people lived in a previous era,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “They aren’t just valued for personal or family history. They become part of the history of the island. So when these things are lost, or damaged in a disaster like Irma, it’s a loss to the whole island. Digitizing them creates a backup for people and families. It also preserves the culture and history of the island.”

Scanning can help preserve fragile items like old photos.

The studio will officially launch at Les Fruits de Mer’s 2019 Migratory Bird Festival. At the event, volunteers will be using it to record oral histories. The festival is free to all, and everyone is invited to come share their stories. People can also bring their heritage photos, letters and other items for scanning. 

The festival will feature fun activities for all ages, like birdwatching, bird-themed games, discovery stations, and arts and crafts. It will take place Saturday November 9th from 9am to noon at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House on the hill above Le Galion in French Quarter. The event is made possible by the 2019 sponsors: 97150, Animal Hospital of St. Maarten, Belair Beach Hotel, BirdsCaribbean, BZSE, Caraïbes Numeric Print, Delta Petroleum, Dynaf, Etna Ice Cream, Hotel L’Esplanade, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar, Trakx Design, White Sands Beach Club and Yacht Club Port de Plaisance.

What Will Happen to Homes?

The sound of hammers and saws fills the air in Grand Case and around the island. But many homes and buildings are still exposed to the elements. How many of these buildings will deteriorate past the point of saving if they are left uncovered. How will that change the look and character of streets and towns on St. Martin?

We are hoping to document this aspect of the Hurricane Irma aftermath and recovery. Which homes and buildings best reflect local architecture and building traditions? How can we recognize and protect buildings that may not be old enough to qualify as “historical” but do represent part of St. Martin’s unique heritage? We aren’t sure exactly what form this project will take, but we are starting to document local buildings with a focus on homes. We will also work on cataloging some of the elements that best reflect unique local traditions. Down the road, perhaps we can follow a selection of buildings over the coming months and years to see how they are saved or lost, and how streets and towns are transformed as a result.

We welcome anyone who would like to get involved with this project. Just get in touch!