Residents help turn history into reality

HAPPY DAYS: Julienne Feast enjoyed participating in the city council's Immersive Storytelling project which connected her with old school friends and brought back a flood of memories for her. Picture: MOLLY TAYLOR

By Molly Taylor

THE LEG of Mutton full of water and Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Mount Gambier are among the many memories shared through the Mount Gambier Library Immersive Storytelling project.

Through Virtual Reality (VR) technology, oral history recordings and photographs from the Les Hill Historic Collection, the new program was launched on Monday and aims to promote mental, social and emotional wellbeing for senior citizens, supported by a $16,900 Age Friendly SA grant.

Several residents helped shape the project by lending their own stories and memories, including Liz Vears, Albert Neale, Wendy Monger, Julienne Feast, Geoff Gabriel, Kevin Hein, Kevin Harris, Maxine Shephard, Noela Hellyer and Jeff and Jill Dixon.

As a Mount Gambier local, Ms Feast said she thoroughly enjoyed being involved in the project and reflecting on the “halcyon days” of her youth.

“Some of the other participants I had went to school with, so it was wonderful to be able to enjoy those experiences with people of the same age and those who are new to Mount Gambier, have an experience of what it’s like,” Ms Feast said.

“It has been pleasure to be able to think back to those days and the things that all my friends used to get up to.”

With her family visiting Mount Gambier for the soft launch earlier this week, Ms Shephard said she felt honoured to be included in the experience and to share her stories to the public.

“Once they suggested a topic, I would just go off and talk and talk,” Ms Shephard said.

“I have always lived here and I do remember a lot of things and people, but I enjoyed it because it was a lot of fun.

“I felt as though what I had to say was of value, so it didn’t feel as though you’re better off sitting in the corner and keeping quiet.”

Library manager Georgina Davison said she was proud of the library team for taking charge of the project and providing a platform to share important real-life experiences.

“It has created a sense of pride in our beautiful city and environment while preserving our culture and heritage,” Ms Davison said.

“We are paving the path in further building our collection and perseveration of the city’s history, while promoting the region’s assets.”

Library history officer and project team member Danni Reade said the project presented history in a fun and interactive way.

“The natural surrounds of Mount Gambier are stunning, but because many of our popular attractions are either at the bottom of a sinkhole or the top of a volcanic crater, they are inaccessible to those with mobility issues, through age or disability,” Ms Read said.

“Participants can now visit places they may not have visited in many years and allow those that have never been able to visit these places a chance to do so.

“It uses immersive and fun technology for storytelling which helps make history more appealing to a broader audience.”

The project is planned to be publicly available midway through the year with a further expansion also planned.