Our first five days in Witless Bay have been spent mainly inside, which is a shame because the weather has been gorgeous. Fortunately, our classroom is the old chapel, so we have the consolation of looking at the window dedicated to St. Joseph blazing with color. Watching the light from the window dancing on my fellow students lends a whole new meaning to the “sacred institution of education.”
On Monday, John Mannion (cultural geographer) gave us a brief history of Witless Bay and the Southern Shore. He showed us an old photograph of a fish stage, circa 1900, and some slides he himself took back in the 1960s. We took a short walking tour of the ‘main drag’ in Witless Bay and saw the old graveyard.
Since Tuesday we’ve been locked in the chapel with Jerry and Guha Shankar (on loan from Washington, D.C)being instructed in how to conduct our research, how to use our sound recording equipment, how to archive our research, and how to be an ethical researcher. On Thursday, professional photographer Brian Ricks arrived to show us how to use our cameras, and two members of the Witless Bay community were kind enough to allow us access to their property so we could put our newly-acquired and somewhat shaky camera skills to work. “Shaky” in terms of both confidence and application of knowledge. In a lot of my photos from the excursion, “shaky” is also a very literal description. What looked good on the camera’s tiny screen looks considerably less good when viewed on a computer screen. We had a photo viewing session in the evening, and I think we all got a significant confidence boost.
Today, we experienced a live, recorded (that sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn’t) interview, conducted by Jerry Pocius and Guha Shankar. They interviewed and recorded Sister Lois talking about her life in the convent here in Witless Bay, while we watched and listened.
We haven’t left the convent much this week, but we’ve been lectured and trained (occasionally beyond our brain’s capacity) and prepared. Next week, we’ll be running amok in the community, scurrying about and measuring buildings with glee and academic fervour.
Watch out, Witless Bay!