Deborah Dunleavy launches unique Telling Hands exhibit

GANANOQUE — Each year the Arthur Child Heritage Museum includes a unique show one can only experience in Gananoque.

This year, “Telling Hands” is running at the museum until July 31. The photographic and audio exhibition was created by storyteller-in-residence Deborah Dunleavy.

During her residency in 2010 at the museum, Dunleavy collected more than 30 hours of stories from people who recalled the years prior to 1945. At the same time she photographed the hands of the people who shared their true life experiences.

The audio recordings in this social/cultural installation have been edited down to just over one hour. Two audio listening stations, along with iPods, allow the visitors to hear the stories while they look at the photographs of the tellers’ hands.

Museum executive director Linda Mainse said the museum provided funding to create the exhibit.

“It’s important we capture this,” she said, noting Dunleavy is preserving key parts of Gananoque’s history with this display.

Dunleavy also received a grant for winning the Alice Kane Award from Storytelling Toronto and used this grant to create a five-minute DVD that features four stories, music by Howard Alexander and a montage of photographs by Al Torrance.

The stories are: “Hot Dog” by Bill Nuttall; “Orphan on the Dock” by Agnes Cliffe; “Ice House and Ice-cream Cones” by Peter Murray; and “The Canoe Club Dances” by Carol Thorburn.

The other tellers recorded for Telling Hands are: Ruby Galway, Bud Watters, Ruth and (the late) Bill Maclean, Erna Dixon, Helen Abrahams, Beverly Spencer, Marjory Robertson and Mary Battams-Rochefort.

“The storytellers shared so many wonderful moments — from playing in the ice house to going on a date at the Canoe Club dance,” Dunleavy said.

“This was a time when receiving an orange at Christmas was a wonderful gift. It was a time of sleigh rides in the winter, picnics on the beach and boating on the river. The tellers take us from the one-room schoolhouse, down the dirt road to the farms, over to the islands and up along the main street of town. They share the heart and soul of their lives coloured with the joys and the sorrows, the whimsy and wonder of yesteryear.”