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The Barn Hunter Brags, or Why Barn Hunting Matters

When I first began this project a few months ago, I assumed that I would be toiling in obscurity. I started this blog almost as an afterthought, and more as a way to keep myself on track than with the hope that anyone besides my thesis supervisor, a couple devoted friends, and maybe my dad would care (he only learnt of its existence last week, by the way). But for some reason, a few people actually seem interested in my work, and that makes me happy. For those of you who have been following my ramblings, THANK YOU!! You’re the best.

Thus, it’s time for a bit of shameless self promotion. I warned you it was coming.

Listen to my interview with Sheila Coles

My wonderful alma mater, Campion College at the University of Regina, included me in its most recent edition of its alumni magazine Brag. The lovely folks at the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador uploaded an interview I did with folklorist Lisa Wilson in Edmonton about the importance of intangible heritage and my personal feelings about it, and most recently, I did two interviews with CBC Radio: one for Saskatoon Morning with Leisha Grebinski and one with Sheila Coles for the Morning Edition in Regina. You can listen to the latter here.
Update (November 4, 2013):  CBC Radio One played my Saskatoon interview on “The Story From Here,”  which means that it was heard nation-wide! This is a different interview from the one I did for CBC Regina, so check it out!
To listen, click the link for “Oct. 30 Part 2” and my interview starts at about 13:30.

I am very pleased about these developments, not just because they flatter my ego, but because they draw attention to this project which I hope has an importance beyond my own measly master’s degree requirement. Barns are disappearing from the landscape. This is indicative of a much larger change in rural Saskatchewan: the increasing industrialisation of agriculture, the rise of agri-business and the deterioration of the traditional family farm. With any such change comes both advantages and loss. For the most part, barns are on the losing side.

In Saskatchewan, there is virtually no protection for barns and extremely limited grant funding available. All of the pictures of pretty barns I’ve published on this blog are examples of private individuals putting a lot of money into these structures simply because they care about them. The photos you’ve seen of deteriorating barns are not necessarily examples of barns that nobody cares about, but perhaps the owners simply can’t afford to fix them up. 

There will never be enough money available for every barn to be saved. But just recording the barns that still exist is a start, which is basically what I am trying to do in my study. I can only cover one proportionately tiny area in this vast province, which is why I hope there will be more barn hunters in the near future. On that note, I will take this opportunity to share with you some links related to barn conservation and preservation in other parts, mostly the United States. It is my mission to help initiate some similar sorts of projects here in Sasaktchewan, most notably a province-wide survey.

The National Barn Alliance – “We provide national leadership for the preservation of America’s historic barns and rural heritage through education, documentation, conservation, and networking.” Yep, Canada is in need of a similar organisation.

The New York State Barn Coalition – “The New York State Barn Coalition is a non-profit organization formed for educational purposes. The coalition is dedicating to promoting the appreciation, preservation, rehabilitation, and re-use of historic barns. The organization seeks to promote a broad understanding of the educational, economic, historic, symbolic, and aesthetic values of historic barns and farmsteads in order to revitalize communities and promote pride in New York’s cultural heritage. The coalition’s members include preservationists, students, teachers, government employees, barn owners, farmers, architects, engineers, contractors, craftsman, historians, and general enthusiasts.” – This is just one example of a state level barn preservation organisation. Saskatchewan, and every other province, should have something similar.

Michigan Barn and Farmstead Survey – This is a group of barn hunters! This flagship survey project is what I hope will happen in Saskatchewan one day soon.

All of these examples from elsewhere illustrate the possibilities for barnophiles here in Saskatchewan. There are lots of you out there; I’ve met quite a few just driving into yards. Committed residents in the Indian Head area created the Bell Barn Society, which is now a tourism site. “Google” Saskatchewan barns, and will you find oodles of beautiful photographs. There’s also Barn in Saskatchewan by Dave Aldous Barns of Western Canada by Bob Hainstock. I’m sure there’s a lot more out there than I know about right now. The point is, there are a lot of people who care about barns out there. If we were to unite, imagine the great things we could do.

Saskatchewanians are known for their passionate dedication to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Imagine a province full of Saskatchewan barn hunters! It would be a formidable army.
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