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Blueberries, Clams, and Beer

Against the backdrop of a fifty-year trend toward globalization has emerged in the last few decades a movement to reclaim local cultures and economies. Beyond the surface of branding like “Made in Maine” stickers lie vibrant social networks with deep historical and geographic roots. Such local economies recently become grist for artists using digital techniques to document the precarious lifeways of rural America.

The Clam Cam is a videocamera attached to harvesters digging in Maine’s beaches, allowing viewers to get their feet wet–virtually if not physically–as they witness this seaside economy from a first-person perspective. The Maine Beer Map, meanwhile, charts the growth of microbreweries across the state while also unearthing the histories of 19th-century brewers in Portland, demonstrating that artisanal beer is not a new phenomenon.

Wild Difference works with with local farmers, UMaine Cooperative Extension researchers, and retailers in Washington County to develop a heritage center about wild blueberries–leveraging cultural assets to reanimate the local economy and save this rare wild fruit, its local farmers, and its 10,000 year history. The only wild fruit under commercial cultivation, the wild low bush blueberry, and the local farmers who have tended them for generations, are in danger of extinction. The project has already garnered lead funding for the development of a physical and virtual museum, and is currently awaiting matching funds from an NEH Digital Humanities grant.

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