Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Quality vs. Quantity

Last summer, I visited Grand Falls-Windsor to go to the local museum (which has an installation on the paper-making process and the mill) and the logger's museum. This year, I returned with a plan to interview a few people to get a feel for how the Grand Falls paper mill experience compared with the Corner Brook experience. I contacted a former reporter for the Advertiser, the Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society, and church groups asking for suggestions on who to interview. I also placed an ad in the paper and shared it on Facebook. The ad was seen by a CBC reporter who interviewed me for this morning's show. And with all of these efforts, I managed to arrange two interviews before leaving Corner Brook. I admit, I was a little disappointed, but was truly grateful for everyone who had helped in this process.

When I arrived this morning, I headed downtown to buy a book on the history of the town. It's a beautiful hard cover that I can't wait to read! Then I went to a new coffee shop and did some work before checking into my hotel and having lunch. Over lunch I checked my messages one last time to see if anyone had responded to my ad and much to my surprise there was one call! We arranged to meet at 4:00.

Both of the interviews this afternoon were incredible (the third one is tomorrow morning). Two very open and interesting research participants provided a great deal of information on the whistle in Grand Falls-Windsor and life after the mill. I was struck by their insightful comments on the meanings embedded in sound and the power and place of memory. And then, when I confessed that I had not yet seen the company houses and mill in Grand Falls, one of them offered to tour me around. I followed him in my own car and we stopped periodically as he pointed out architectural features, described the changes that have been made, and identified the heritage areas where the the stone walls must be preserved. After thanking him, I drove to the old mill, now owned by Nalcor, and snapped a photo. With my window down in my car, I was struck by the silence, the lack of smell, and the lack of smoke.

As I drove back to my hotel, I reflected on the day and was reminded of something very important that I lost sight of while planning this trip: in ethnographic research, it really is quality over quantity in many cases. And I had struck gold.

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