Some of the Williams Center partners have been busy as of late documenting Louisiana’s coastal culture and spreading the word about Louisiana women.
On March 13, the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) launched the opening of an exhibition, “I Remember,” at the Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Culture Center in Thibodaux, Louisiana. The exhibit features a mixture of art, photographs, and oral histories that document and, “record the essence of the people who are some of the many stakeholders in Louisiana’s wetlands.” Narrators include oystermen, scientists, residents, a farmer, a crabber, a shrimper, and a member of the United Houma Nation. There is a listening station on site, and visitors may write down their own memories about coastal Louisiana and pin them to a cast net in the exhibit. The exhibit is free and on display through May 8.
The reception was well-attended and included opening remarks from Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph, as well as remarks by photographer Lane Lefort and artist Marian Brister Martinez. The interviewees were recognized for their contributions as well.
Susan Testroet-Bergeron runs the oral history project as the Education Specialist and CWPPRA Outreach Coordinator for Five Rivers Services at the USGS National Wetlands Research Center. The paintings by Marian Brister Martinez and the photographs of Louisiana’s landscapes and bird life by Lane Lefort are spectacular and would easily stand-alone in any exhibition space. Adding to this “Art Show of Environmental Significance” are the ever-important oral histories of ten of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands stewards: Cindy Cutera, Davie Breaux, Maritta Smith Greene, Kerry St. Pe, Sue Laudeman, Eddie Sapia, Sherrill Sagrera, Yancy Welch, Buddy Daisy, Earl Melancon, and Brenda Dardar Robichaux. The exhibition features QR codes adjacent to Lefort’s portraits of the interviewees so that oral histories can be accessed by smartphone on-site. Additionally, there is a corresponding webpage you can visit to access the interviews and photos. Fortunately for the Center, Susan reached out for us to partner with them: Center Director Jen Cramer provided some consultation about interviewing, transcribing, and interview exhibition display. CWPRRA is donating the audio recordings to be housed with the Center, where they will be preserved and made available to researchers.
Another Center partner in the news is Dr. Alecia Long, whose oral history project, “Listening to Louisiana Women,” is housed at the Williams Center. For Women’s History Month, Long gave a lecture at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she spoke about how various interviews for her project helped bring to light issues concerning women, such as pay inequity and the legislation of reproductive rights. Approximately eighty women have been interviewed for this project, funded by the Ford Foundation, over the past four years. Dr. Long’s students have conducted the majority of the interviews for class projects. Center staff provided field work training and the interviews are currently being processed.