Mill Stories is a collaborative project bringing together UMBC students to help preserve stories from the Sparrows Point community. As the project develops, we hope that this website will present a form of database documentary, in which users can access interviews, videos photos and other cultural materials gathered from the community.
Two classes participated during the Spring 2013 semester. Students in AMST 358 Cultural Documentation in Partnership with Communities were introduced to the ideas, techniques and ethical considerations that underpin qualitative research, particularly from a community-based, out-in-the-field perspective. The course focuses on cultural research and documentation within the communities that have been shaped for over a century by the Sparrows Point Steel Mill. Students have also been introduced to broader notions of community cohesion, senses of place and belonging, as well as the realities of post-industrial economic and social transition.
Students in MLL 495/695 Intercultural Video Production focused on creating short digital stories based on community interviews. The class takes a collaborative approach, allowing participants to tell their stories in their own words.
Convening at the United Steel Workers Local 9477 Union Hall and the Dundalk Patapsco Neck Historical Society, as well as Speed’s Barber Shop in the historically African-American neighborhood of Turner Station, students had the opportunity to interview community members to learn about Sparrows Point culture – from the intricacies of making steel, operating cranes and union participation to understanding the experiences of segregation and gender discrimination both within the company towns and on the job, and the impacts of the civil and women’s rights movements since the 60s and 70s, as examples.
We are currently planning a community-based event at the end of the semester to share the work of both AMST 358 and MLL 406/606 students with Sparrows Point community members at the union hall in Dundalk.