100 witnesses of the building of five large dams on the upper Dordogne valley in France: the displaced speak, 60 years later
(Independent consultant, France)
Paper short abstract:
How witnesses reacted when offered to have their families’ experience included among 100 voices. How they managed their ownership of the archive collection participatory project, 60 years after these “people of the valley” were displaced to build five large dams on the Dordogne River in France.
Paper long abstract:
After WWII, France needed urgently to upgrade the national energy production for both households and industries. Thousands of people were displaced to make space for large reservoirs for hydroelectrity. They left their farms, castles, social networks and agricultural activities. They left their homes built by their ancestors' own hands. A cultural project was recently designed with the departmental Archives of Cantal and Correze and the Group Electricite de France. "100 Witnesses" speak in order to record the memory of the life along the river, and the drastic change in landscape and activities during and after the building of these five large dams.
The people of the Dordogne Valley, who were displaced 60 years ago, agreed to be recorded, for the first time. What convinced them to talk about the hard experience of displacement? How did they take ownership of the project? What do they do with the book that was published? What do the witnesses say when they are invited to give conferences? How do they use the website of the archives? How do artists among them create new projects that include the recorded files? Are they currently building their own cultural heritage?
The paper will question whether this experience is replicable. It will be compared with the oral archives project of the Department of Finance in France, which inspired this project. This archive collection is presented by Professor Florence Descamps in her book "The historian, the archivist and the recorder. From conception of oral source to its utilization". (2001).
Everyone an archivist? The role of participatory archives in creating cultural heritage