NEWBURY — Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Richard Russo famously said: “People in small towns, much more than in cities, share a destiny.” Exploring this kind of interconnectedness from shared memories is a driving force behind a new video project hosted by the Newbury Town Library.
“The Town I Remember”, which kicks off this Saturday, Nov. 9, is a community project that seeks to gather stories from longtime town residents about life growing up in Newbury. Part of an ongoing effort to document and preserve town history, Saturday’s event — and other similar gatherings in the future — will be videotaped and added to the library’s local history collection.
“We want to capture information about the town from folks who lived it and have first-hand experience,” said Dick Passeri, chairman of the library trustees. Passeri says the idea for the project started germinating about a year ago when Jim Cunningham, a descendent of the first settlers of Newbury, made a presentation at the library on the history of Newbury’s mining boom.
“At the end of his presentation a few of the attendees began sharing memories of growing up in Newbury,” Passeri recalled, “I asked if they would be interested in getting together and sharing their memories. They were all enthusiastic.”
Since then he has been speaking off and on with potential participants and homing in on whom specifically to tap as initiators of the first gathering. “It was fascinating to sit and listen to these folks sharing their memories. It just flowed so easily. Someone would say something and it would trigger someone else’s memories,” Passeri said.
The idea is to create a welcoming and relaxed environment in which people feel comfortable sharing what they remember of Newbury’s yesteryears. A moderator and 12 longtime residents will “initiate the trip down memory lane,” then open the discussion up to the audience, explained Passeri. Everyone who attends will have a chance to share a memory, if they choose to.
The discussion will revolve around growing up within the various neighborhoods in town. Passeri anticipates that shared memories of events and experiences will be similar — but will also portray the teller’s unique perspective.
“We’re looking to see how it works — or doesn’t," he said. "The goal is to learn and adjust accordingly... Hopefully, this is the first of similar events to take place over time.”
Learning about the town’s past from the people who lived it may help frame future choices and clarify why things are the way they are today, Passeri believes. “Capturing the memories can help explain the culture and character of the community,” he said.
“The Town I Remember” takes place from 10:30 a.m. to noon in the community meeting room of the library at 0 Lunt St. To register to attend visit www.newburylibrary.org.