This month teens at The Connection kicked off an exciting local history project that will have generational impact. In the past year, all the vacant buildings directly surrounding our building have been purchased by a company with the intent to reactivate them. That means that if they are successful, our block will never look the same. So, what are we doing? We’re documenting what life on Main Street in Niagara Falls looks like in 2020 through photography and collecting oral histories from people of their experiences on Main Street over the past decades!
Twice a week, 10 teenagers explore our neighborhood block by block snapping pictures of things they find interesting. It could be a building, a sign, an interaction among people, anything really. Each day we print out the photos and do some critique and skill building on how we can grow our photography skills. We also are learning about proper documentation because we are giving these photos to the library to keep in their files for future generations who are curious about the history of Main Street.
One day a week we go to the local history department of the Niagara Falls Public Library and the librarian pulls pictures, documents, maps, etc. about Main Street. If there is a building, block or story the teens are interested in from their photography adventures, we give her a heads up so she can do some deep research. Our library days are wild! This week we found out that Main Street used to have a roller-skating rink. We need to know more! The library has an incredible number of old photos and really neat maps that are so engaging to look at. (We also took a mini detour and found old yearbooks and looked up parents and teachers).
We are also going to collect oral histories. We haven’t started this yet, but we have people scheduled and have practiced good interviewing skills to prepare. One person worked at the theatre across the street in 1968, one person owned a clothing shop down the block and one person runs the food pantry in our neighborhood now!
We are doing the project in partnership with the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, an organization that has been a solid partner and neighbor on the block for years. We are also grateful to have teens through the Summer Youth Employment Program in Niagara County.
Health Education and Outreach Supervisor