Digital Storytelling Premiere Goes On

Apr 10, 2020

The event will be broadcast live via Zoom at 7 p.m. April 28.

digital premiere details

The show will go on for 22 students in Dr. Christina Fisanick’s honors English class.    

In partnership with the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Fisanick’s students have hosted a digital storytelling premiere either on campus or at local historical societies for the past seven years.   

They focus on an interesting person, place or thing in the collections of local historical societies and museums. 

As Cal U continues with remote operations, this spring’s end-of-the-semester digital storytelling premier will be broadcast live via Zoom at 7 p.m. April 28.

Small groups of students will present six videos focusing on the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, in Avella, Pa.; the Duncan & Miller Glass Museum, in Washington, Pa.; and the Bethel Park, Fayette County, Elizabeth Township and Rostraver Township historical societies. 

“My honors students always push through whatever obstacles might be thrown in their way, including this pandemic,” Fisanick said. “They insisted from the start of this that we would hold a digital storytelling premiere not just to showcase their hard work, but to help their historical societies get the positive recognition they need and deserve. 

“I have been incredibly pleased with their willingness to accept my critiques and their eagerness to produce high-quality final projects.” 

Psychology major Erin Polakovsky and her group worked with the Rostraver Township Historical Society. 

Their feature story is centered on a private cemetery in Rostraver, where the earliest inhabitants of the city, the Weddells, who are survived Pontiac’s Rebellion, are buried. 

The group went to the historical society before the COVID-19 outbreak and met once in person before creating their project remotely. 

“We all had to work sort of separately and communicate via text or online about what we liked, whereas in normal times we probably would have pulled the video editor up on one computer and all sat around it making suggestions,” Polakovsky said. 

Graham Sterling, a sophomore majoring in fisheries and wildlife biology, also worked with the Rostraver group. He was looking forward to presenting the work at the Strike a Spark, Cal U’s annual undergraduate research conference that was scheduled for April 22.  

“I would much rather present in the Convocation Center as was intended, but realize that that isn’t an option at the moment, and as they say in music, the show must go,” he said.  

“We simply had to Zoom sometimes and call a lot, but we managed to get the project done in a timely manner, which is what’s important.” 

Caitlyn Urban, a sophomore majoring in secondary education, enjoyed working with the Fayette County Historical Society and learning about Searight’s Tollhouse, which was built in 1835 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964. 

“It’s been challenging not working face-to-face, but the people at the society helped us learn so much about the lifestyle back then, and it’s so intriguing how the toll house has its original artifacts and framework. 

“I do hope everything with the presentation goes smoothly. This is the current way things are, but we are healthy and safe.” 

Polakovsky said the virtual presentation format will give more historical society members and a larger audience overall the chance to view the students’ work. 

“Many of our area historical societies are run by dedicated volunteers whose day jobs and busy schedules prevent them from seeing the premiere,” she said. “These folks are very passionate about the stories they’ve shared, and hopefully now being able to see our work will be a great source of pride for them.”