Barn – Old English: Bern or Berern from bere which means “barley” + ern, ærn which means “house”. (“Online Etymology Dictionary”, n.d., para. 1).
Familiarity with the PLLC program and/or with barns may, at first, lead you to question what leadership skills a student can learn by cataloguing barns for their Stretch Experience. Indeed, you may struggle to see the leadership or question the importance of studying barns at all. In truth, I asked those same questions when I first encountered the project.
In order to explain myself further I need to tell you that I think one of the biggest challenges facing our society is our tendency to not see the value in a resource while we still have access to that resource.
Most Albertans do not see our own history as meaningful and valuable. During my Stretch Experience thus far I have encountered these people. Many simply scoff until they are asked to suspend their disbelief. Alberta was largely uninhabited by European settlers until the early 1900s. This short time frame did not allow an extensive evolution of construction material in rural building construction. As a result, historic buildings in rural Alberta are usually wooden homesteads, elevators, and barns. Comparatively, Eastern Canada had habitation by immigrants during the late 15th century, if not earlier. In some cases, more time allowed for more grandiose architecture. As a result, some magnificent buildings have been preserved for heritage reasons in rural Eastern Canada. It may be easier for an Albertan to see the historic value in rural buildings such as those than it is to elicit awe in an Albertan for a historic rural Albertan building. Is this because of familiarity with the area? Is this because of the age of the building? Is this because of our tendency to not see value until the resource becomes scarce? In any case, there needs to be a change in our perception of the value of historic rural Albertan buildings. This summer, I am specifically working on changing perceptions of value for rural Albertan barns.
There is very little documentation about Alberta’s barns. This history is slowly being lost as barns are neglected or destroyed out of necessity. Flagstaff County is home to an abundance of barns that showcase the region’s rich history. The barns tell the story of both past and present use and give opportunity for reclamation for future use. A barn’s physical structure and the life experiences of those who used the barn inform our curious minds. A generation or two has passed since most rural Albertans used barns in their daily lives. As such, many Albertans do not understand the terminology, machinery, and structure associated with barns. In order to make learning and accessing this knowledge easier, Flagstaff County is taking an inventory of the barns present within their municipal district. The project aims to increase understanding and appreciation of rural agricultural history through the documentation of heritage barns. The documentation is available to the public through the website Heritage Barn of Flagstaff so that everyone who wishes can enjoy the barns within Flagstaff County.
We must not wait until scarcity elicits demand for these historic resources. We should take action now, while residents of Flagstaff County still have the access and the connection to historic barns in the area. All of us should work to change our own perceptions on Albertan history.
As a PLLC scholar I am spearheading the Heritage Barns of Flagstaff project. I am strengthening my ethics by discussing the importance of Albertan history, honing my decision making skills by working independently, and developing my communication skills and emotional intelligence through public outreach.
If you know of a barn in Flagstaff County that should be added to Heritage Barns of Flagstaff please contact Sydney Hampshire @ 780-390-0320.
Online etymology dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.etymonline.com/