Back to the Land Research Collection
Summary: Partners from four local institutions have joined efforts to develop a digital collection and research portal highlighting the significance of the back-to-the-land movement in St. Lawrence County.
- Jill Breit, Folklorist and Executive Director, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York
- M.J. Heisey, Historian, State University of New York at Potsdam
- Doug Welch, Librarian, State University of New York at Canton
- Eric Williams-Bergen, Science Librarian, St. Lawrence University
- To digitize, catalog and provide digital access to the journals, books, newsletters, ephemera, recorded interviews and photographs generated by back-to-the-landers in St. Lawrence County, and by those who have documented them.
- To provide access to this material through the creation of a digital repository and website enabling students and researchers to easily access the database.
- To compile a complete collection of this material and place it in the St. Lawrence University Special Collections in the Owen D. Young Library.
Phase One: Assemble, digitize, index, create metadata and digitally archive the following publications: Rootdrinker, The Newsletter of the Rural Life Association, Women Together: Journal of North Country Women.
Phase Two: Develop a web-based portal to provide students and scholars access to the collection’s materials.
Phase Three: Create a mechanism to provide digital access to the ephemera, recorded interviews, personal reflections and photographs generated by back-to-the-landers and researchers. A searchable bibliography of these materials will be published during this phase.
Description of the project:
Beginning in the 1960s, St. Lawrence County, New York, was one of dozens of rural destinations in the United States to attract the attention of back-to-the-landers, a broad movement of mostly young people seeking anti-materialistic lifestyles in rural settings. Those first back-to-the-landers have served as example and inspiration to subsequent generations of aspirants to alternative lifestyles in the country. In St. Lawrence County, back-to-the-landers established communes and individual homesteads, experimented with alternatives to the cash economy, and tried to sustain themselves through farming and other land-based ventures. Over the years, they also became engaged citizens of the county, greatly influencing the public life of the region. Despite the great significance of back-to-the-landers to the history and culture of St. Lawrence County, no systematic effort has ever been made to assemble a research collection on the subject. The partners in this project aim to amass as complete a record of this population as possible. Three key components of the project will be to search the published record for citations, conduct fieldwork in St. Lawrence County, and invite those associated with the back-to-the-land community to submit copies of their own photographs, journals, and newsletters for inclusion in the collection.