Origins of the Oral History of Sault Ste. Marie

The origins of the OHSSM are rooted in the interests of several people, Cathy Shunock and Wendy Hamilton, who value the age old tradition of storytelling. With combined backgrounds in theatre, broadcasting, fundraising and events management they formed a small spearhead committee to navigate the steps toward the establishment of a local Oral History archive in Sault Ste. Marie.

Using the latest in technology to preserve the faces, voices and stories of our past, is, put simply, a good idea. Oral histories have been captured through written documentation and audio taped recordings for generations

The Process

Each interview is taped by a professional videographer. More conversation, than interview, the taping can take place in the home of the interviewee or other location of choice. These conversations have been an average length of 30 minutes but some have been an hour or more.

Each session begins with the person’s full name, date and location of birth. This information is included as a title page off the top of the packaged DVD. One copy of the DVD is presented as a Keepsake and thank you to the interviewee while another DVD is donated to the public archive and uploaded to an on-line virtual library. A release form must be signed before the interview becomes part of the archive.

An important component of the OHSSM is that the histories collected are not censored or edited. Each session stands on its own for use in whole, or in part. This uncensored archive provides valuable resources to documentarians and educators pursuing a particular theme or area of study. Therefore all interviews are also stored as a raw digital file should such uses arise.

To date, the person conducting the interview (basically leading the conversation) has run the gamut of family member, friend, or oral history volunteer.  We are fortunate to have a growing group of interviewers that have a background in broadcasting and journalism join the team.

The Algoma region has a very unique history in Canada as Sault Ste. Marie and area has been on maps since the days of Samuel DeChamplain.

No wonder we have SO many stories in our city. And we have only just begun!

Thank You

The Logo

Thanks to Stephanie Floyd and ENVISION Strategy + Design for this logo design. The graphic symbol is a speech bubble enclosing a face in profile. The search for an acronym for such a long project name, has involved some tongue twisting experimentation but we finally settled on OHSSM.... OH SSM... Oh Sault Ste. Marie...

The Sampler Video

Thanks to Christian Lemay and Lemaniac Productions for production of the first promotional video. Christian turned on the charm to convince co- founders Cathy Shunock and Wendy Hamilton to talk on camera about this project. The selections of sound bites from so many fascinating interviews was a time consuming task.

The Videographers

Thanks to Gary Huckerby of Patchwork Productions for being our first videographer on this project. He provided a workable format for transfers and slating as well as the inaugural “look” for our first 100 interview DVDs. The challenge of saving raw digital data in an ever changing technology is ongoing and Gary has been our advisor on all things technical.

The Legal Stuff

Thanks to Larry Peterson for the pro bono legal advise in the development of the necessary paperwork: interviewee release forms; archival release forms; and partnership agreement with the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library.

The Non-Profit Partner

Thanks to Sandra Houston and the Arts Council of Sault Ste. Marie and District for partnering with us in a successful application to Service Canada for a 7 month employee in 2012. It gave our small group of volunteers support at a crucial time in this projectʼs efforts to get off the ground.


The Imagery

Thanks to Gene Ubriaco for permission to showcase some of his artwork. Geneʼs memories of his West End upbringing are so poetically captured in his paintings, we couldnʼt have asked for a better image to grace our first 100 interviews.

The Website Design

Thanks to Cavera Inc for designing and creating the current website.

Thanks to Noel Hall and Ken Whitfield for designing our first website while students at Sault College.