An oral history project will work with University of Minnesota students in coming months to interview elders in the area and feature personal historical accounts of life in Southeast Minneapolis neighborhoods.
The Neighborhood Memories project will showcase stories from six seniors throughout each of the three Southeast neighborhoods: Como, Marcy-Holmes and Prospect Park. The historical reflections are intended to preserve and document the elders’ experiences in the neighborhoods and cultivate a sense of community for residents.
Southeast Seniors, the group organizing the project, has interviewed elders in the area over past years through their Connection Club, which partners students to an older resident, said Lydia McAnerney, volunteer coordinator with the organization.
“They’ve been doing sort of a brief, very informal story about something in their life,” McAnerney said. “So what we’re doing now is being a lot more deliberate about the kinds of questions we’ll be asking and training [the] volunteers who will be doing these stories.”
The project aligns with a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Southeast Seniors. Near the end of August, the group hopes to recruit University students for the interviews and identify longtime elder residents in the area with the help of neighborhood organizations.
University student Julia Turnbow has been involved with Southeast Seniors for several years through the Connection Club and looks forward to the oral history project.
As a freshman, she said the Connection Club was a great way to meet a friend in the community, despite the age gap.
“The way we treat aging is not very good,” Turnbow said. “It seems like Southeast Seniors was taking a really cool grassroots approach to making it easier to get older.”
Turnbow attended training sessions for conducting informational interviews through the organization.
She will interview a variety of people in the fall for Neighborhood Memories and hopes the project will highlight how University neighborhoods have changed over time.
“I just can’t wait to see more of that richness in the people that live around me,” she said.
Southeast Seniors is working with a professional oral historian to train and support volunteers, and will bring in an experienced transcriptionist to record the stories after they’ve been collected.
Once compiled, the stories will be archived at the Hennepin History Museum. The project will also be distributed to the neighborhoods and printed into a book with accompanying photos.
Longtime Prospect Park resident Florence Littman hopes to participate in Neighborhood Memories. She said it’s important for newer residents to know the history of the region as it changes.
“If you know your neighbor, it makes for a strong community,” Littman said. “I think those who read them will say well maybe I should go out and try and meet my next door neighbors.”