As planned, I finished my Concept Proposal this week and submitted it today to Drs. Walsh and Miller. It seems like a document with so few words, and yet it consolidates much of what I have been thinking of and researching over the past weeks.
Over the past week I’ve been thinking about subaltern histories, histories of everyday life, oral histories and what John Brewer calls “Microhistories” and the silences in these histories. According to Brewer, in his “Microhistory and the Histories of Everyday Life”, academic writing about “everyday life” stems from 17th century antiquarian writing, and was followed in the early 20th century by Marxist writing. But according to Brewer both were founded in nostalgia and romanticism. As well, these histories may have been about everyday life, but were not necessarily first-hand accounts. According to David Kyvig in his book Nearby Histories: Exploring the Past Around You, the writing of oral histories and first-hand accounts has also been around for hundreds of years, but it was not until the 1940s that Allan Nevins formulated the recognized oral history method, in his Columbia Oral History Project.
It is not entirely surprising, therefore, that Benjamin Drew would collect and publish “slave narratives” in 1856, nor that the Federal Writers Project (FWP) would do the same in the 1930s. These were not written for nostalgic purposes, but rather were likely politically motivated in Drew’s case, and possibly in the FWP case as well. Whatever the motivation behind their collection, the narratives and the photographs that sometimes accompanied them, represent a valuable archive of primary source information about a group of people that might never otherwise have recorded their own histories. And even had they recorded their histories, they would have needed to preserve them until the 1960s or 1970s when these sorts of narratives began to be of interest to professional historians and archivists.
So with my Concept Proposal in place, I need to start thinking about the next tasks and the next main building block for the film – The Treatment. Assuming that the Concept is acceptable to Drs. Walsh and Miller, I need to begin compiling more archival images and accompanying sound effects. I need to get outside with the video camera again to get any remaining outdoor footage before winter sets in. I also need to start to consider sources of music and make sure that I have permissions for all my images. As well, if I am going to need any original art, I need to think about how to make that happen. So this coming week will be devoted to at least starting some of these tasks.