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Grant number like: PY-258632-18

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Siena College (Loudonville, NY 12211-1462)
Janet Lee Shideler (Project Director: May 2017 to March 2021)
Je Me Souviens (I Remember): Presenting and Preserving the Heritage of Upstate New York’s Franco-American Communities

A digitization day and public programming to collect and celebrate Franco-American culture in upstate New York. The project would digitize photos, letters, immigration papers, sheet music, heirlooms, handmade garments, devotional medals and rosaries, rugs, tapestries, and other objects that reflect the traditions and cultural heritage of this community. The public program would take place in Cohoes, in one of the former textile mills along the Mohawk River that attracted thousands of French-Canadians with the promise of employment. By 1881, Cohoes was the adopted home of over 6,000 Québécois, a number that composed over a third of the city’s population. Descendants who share their family memorabilia would receive digital copies on flash drives, and with their permission, the digital files and their bilingual (English/French) metadata would become part of the New York Heritage Digital Collections (NYHDC) to which Siena College is a contributor. The NYHDC website is a research portal visited by historians, genealogists, students, and educators from across the state and country. The project would draw upon the expertise of Siena College’s faculty and library staff, as well as partnerships with local organizations, such as the Spindle City Historic Society and the Fédération Franco-Américaine du New York in Cohoes, to reach out to members of the community.

This project seeks to preserve and digitize a broad array of artifacts that reflect the rich cultural heritage of upstate New York's aging Franco-American population. With community partners, Siena College faculty, librarians and students will organize, promote and host a public digitization and cultural event in Cohoes, NY, the city to which French Canadians immigrated beginning in the 1830s. They went on become the city's largest ethnic group in the 20th century. The event will include a lecture by a scholar of Franco-American culture and a performance by renowned Franco-American singer-songwriter Josee Vachon. Cultural and historical items brought to the event by Franco-Americans will be digitized and shared on a publicly accessible digital collection, and oral histories will be documented, all in time for what is likely the last francophone generation to describe their significance to researchers and to young Franco-Americans who are increasingly unaware of their own rich heritage.

Project fields:
Folklore and Folklife; Immigration History; Public History

Common Heritage

Preservation and Access

$8,980 (approved)
$7,468 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2018 – 12/31/2019