By Lauren Fulbright
A series of "digital stories" created by community members working with students at the nearby University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is now available for viewing on the library's new flat-screen televisions at 855 Sulphur Spring Road.
From dinosaur hunting to the history of local landmarks such as the Relay Town Hall, each of the short videos uses narrative storytelling and photographs to describe an aspect of the history of Arbutus, Relay and nearby communities.
"It's an opportunity for students to interact with the community in a way that they normally wouldn't do on a daily basis," said professor William Shewbridge, director of the new media studio at UMBC.
To create the stories, Library Manager Gail Ross said invitations were sent to more than 60 local residents "who we thought might have a story to tell."
During a series of meetings at the library's former location at 1581 Sulphur Spring Road, residents told their stories as students recorded the process, Ross said.
Ross said one of the more interesting byproducts of the project was seeing young people interact with older, long-time residents of the community.
"The kids who did this project were very respectful and very interested," she said.
The students brought the stories to life visually and orally, she said, while the residents were happy to have copies of the stories they will now be able to pass down to younger family members.
Shewbridge said students have done similar projects in the past, including a series of stories that focus on the Charleston Retirement Community, in Catonsville.
He said he thinks the Arbutus stories are great.
Many were based around a "sense of place" and provide a sort of map of the community, he said.
Shewbridge said the process of creating the stories was just as important as the stories themselves.
In one of the stories, Relay resident Ray Chism explains his memories of growing up near the Thomas Viaduct, the world's longest curved stone-arch railroad bridge, which was built in the 1830s.
Chism said he first saw the viaduct at age 8. Crossing the bridge with a friend, Chism recalls a steam engine that passed by.
"I held onto the railing with both hands. I will never forget it," he said in the story. "After that, I crossed it many times when the trains came by. We were veterans."
Chism also described a deep pool he would swim in near the bridge.
"However, one day I came home after a swim and my mother screamed, 'You're all blue.' " he said, describing how mills in Ellicott City had filled the river with blue dye. "I never swam in the Patapsco River again."
Other stories tell the history of places such as the Relay community, Cowdensville African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Relay Town Hall.
Rick Smith described his experiences hunting for dinosaur bones in Arbutus, eventually finding a piece of what may be the leg bone of an Astrodon Johnstoni, a large plant-eating dinosaur and the official state dinosaur.
In "The Day a Nation Wept," Harry Robertson recalled waiting beside railroad tracks as a train carrying the body of President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed through Arbutus.
"It was fully lit inside, with a flag-draped casket in the middle and four servicemen standing as an honor guard," said Vince Moore, who narrated for Robertson, recalling the president's funeral car.
"To me it was a beautiful but sad sight."
Ross said the stories will be shown periodically at the library.
They can also be viewed at UMBC's digital stories website, www.umbc.edu/stories.