Look back, look forward. Ancestors to future generations. Now and then. Then and now.
It is now -- Jan. 18, 2011, the day after the Beaufort Three-Century Project concluded. Three years and a day ago, it was then -- Jan. 17, 2008 -- when a grassroots group started the Beaufort Three-Century Project with a goal to engage the community in learning about, caring about and documenting our history as we approached the city of Beaufort's tricentennial.
In the 36 months of this endeavor, 3,000 to 4,000 people have participated in one or more of the 42 projects of "The Project." There were lectures, a symposium, books, films, forums, art, anniversary events, school activities and oral histories.
The archive -- including recordings, photographs, memory cards and video documentation of events -- will be transferred to the Beaufort County Library over the coming weeks. The B3C website, www.beaufortthreecentury.org, so generously designed and hosted by The Beaufort Gazette, will remain up as a community resource throughout 2011, with final content contributed to the site as the archive is finalized.
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Please continue to enjoy, listen, look, learn. Tell your stories to children, friends, others. Share photographs and memories. Talk about what is important to you and Beaufort's future. Keep the conversation going.
Throughout the project, common threads were woven in many of the initiatives. People interviewed for the 300 stories project or those who participated in the forum dialogues echoed the same six common elements that define Beaufort:
1. The water: It surrounds us and supports us.
2. The beauty: It is rare and stunning and pervasive.
3. The people: They are caring and friendly and inclusive in a way that is hard to describe but is different than other places.
4. The history: It is rich and diverse.
5. The culture: It is distinctive, and we have long been a place of the arts and learning.
6. The military: It has broaden our perspective in the past, is vital to the local economy and its presence is unlike that in other military towns.
In every future decision, we might ask ourselves, "Will this adversely affect the characteristics that make Beaufort special?" If the answer is "yes," then don't do it! We might also ask, "Will this protect and advance the characteristics that make Beaufort wonderfully unlike other places?" If the answer is "yes," then go forth with speed and determination!
The legacy of the hundreds of people who worked on this project will live on not only in the archive but in the hearts and minds of all who participated -- those who learned more about this incredible place we call home, shared ideas about what our past means for our future and engaged in a community conversation about the incredible sense of place that defines us.
There are so many people to thank -- the steering committee, the sponsors and donors, the volunteers, and the people who shared their stories, knowledge, talents and ideas. People and organizations gave generously to this project in so many ways that it is humbling to consider.
Thank you for being part of it.
Deborah S. Johnson is project coordinator of the Beaufort Three-Century Project