Fannin County, Georgia is a rapidly changing place. The best-known town in the county is Blue Ridge, which is renowned as a quaint mountain getaway for residents of Atlanta and points further south. As a child, I grew up visiting my grandparents in Blue Ridge. My family told me stories of their lives in the mountains, but as I grew older the landscape around me no longer matched their stories. With the economic prosperity in town, land use in the countryside evolved. Parcels of land shrunk as more people moved in, and smaller rental cabins dotted the landscape where traditional vernacular architecture had once dominated. Pieces of land that in my great-grandparents day sold for around $10/acre can currently sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. I saw my classes at Georgia State University as an opportunity to investigate the public memory of these changes, to see whether or not there was one underlying narrative behind the county’s transformation.
In fall of 2017 I took a class on oral history. I knew that the questions I had about Fannin County could only be answered through oral history interviews. My goal with each interviewer was to establish an understanding of their perspective on the county as they grew up, their understanding of the first time they realized Blue Ridge was changing, and their opinions on the change. I sought out narrators from different generations and different perspectives in the community. I wanted to make these interviews available online, so the next semester I assigned myself the task of creating an Omeka site that would exhibit the interviews themselves, my line of inquiry, and a digital map of places identified in the interviews. My goal with this site was to put local voices at the forefront, and to provide as little interpretation as possible. The exhibits, or “stories” show my line of questioning, and put certain items in the context of my research. Over the course of this project, I found that almost everyone experienced the county and its slow gentrification differently. While there is some consensus within generations on the type of community Fannin County once was, each narrator had different perspectives on how the county changed over the past decades. The main questions that I could not find an agreement on was when Blue Ridge began changing, and whether or not these changes were good or bad for the community. These answers will likely require much more time, but this project could give insight into the perspectives of locals dealing with significant change in their community.
Sophia Queen is a recent graduate of GSU’s Master’s in Heritage Preservation program. During her time at GSU, she worked on multiple digital projects through her coursework and the Student Innovation Fellowship. Though her projects range widely in content, they each elevate underrepresented narratives. View her Omeka-based digital archive here: