Category: Heritage

Find Stories in Your Family Photos at Free Workshop

Family photos are rich in meaning.

Do you ever wish you knew more about your family history? Are you looking for something special to share this holiday season? Sign up for the free Family Photo Workshop and you can do both these things. The workshop will be held at Amuseum Naturalis from 9am to noon on Saturday, December 7th.

Every photo also tells a story. When we learn how to read the story in a photo, that story comes alive and can be a part of history. Cesar Escalona is an expert at finding the meaning in photos, and he will help you find the story in one of your own family photos at the workshop. Cesar is an anthropologist and photographer who specializes in finding culture and history in photos.

“Photos show us many things about the past,” said Escalona. “We can see who our ancestors were, what they were doing, how they dressed and the landscape around them. They hold details about culture, everyday life and historical events. Photography also has a visual language, just like painting and other arts. By learning the basics of this language, we can find out what the photographer’s choices tell us.”

Each person will find the story in their own family photo using what they learn in the workshop. They will also receive a high-resolution scan of their photo so they can share their photo and story with family and friends for the holidays. It’s a great chance to discover and connect with your own family history, and share what you learn with your loved ones.

Even informal photos can tell us a lot about family and culture.

This workshop can also be a first step towards studying your family history in more detail and connecting it to the history of the island. Future workshops will cover topics like digitizing photos and how to protect and preserve family photos. 

To sign up for this workshop, email info@lesfruitsdemer.com or send a message to Les Fruits de Mer by Facebook. You will need to bring at least one family photo to work with during the workshop. All other materials will be provided. The workshop is free, but space is limited, so make sure to reserve your spot!

Cesar Escalona is an anthropologist specializing in the study of photos. (Photo by Kristin DeFalco)

About the Workshop Leader
Cesar Escalona is an anthropologist from Central University of Venezuela. Since 2007 he has specialized in the study and audiovisual documentation of Venezuelan cultural diversity as expressed in the rituals and festivities of indigenous, Afro-Caribbean and Catholic people. He has also completed specialized studies in gender and sexual diversity (2013) and visual anthropology (2014). He is dedicated to development of visual methodologies and investigation of photographic image as narrative and construction of the past. As a university instructor and community teacher, he taught audiovisual methodologies and forms of research of the past in the rural communities of western Venezuela.

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!