Like the nation as a whole, Keene, New Hampshire went through a period of difficult industrial transformation between 1970 and 2015. Yet Keene’s story is not one of deindustrialization; though the numbers employed have declined, Keene continues to design and manufacture cutting edge products. How did the machinists, engineers, owners, managers, and financiers in the community of Keene pull together to fight to retain a vibrant industrial base in this one corner of the Connecticut River Valley?
Personal relationships and human decisions mediated larger forces of globalization, technological change, and a changing financial environment. Dr. Duggan and her upper level students in IIECON 399: Keene De/Reindustrialization aim to record oral history interviews with the people who guided each other through this challenging forty year period. We hope that the people we talk to will be willing to have the transcriptions of these interviews deposited in the Historical Society of Cheshire County so we leave a record for posterity of the efforts made during this time of great transformation. If that is too formal for some, the students will carry their ideas forward in their minds and written essays for the course. As student Mike Grazewski explained, speaking to one person for two hours is more transformative than reading many books. Indeed, the impact of speaking to experienced leaders is visible as the students begin during this semester to become dependable and knowledgeable professionals ready to engage in their own communities.
Play below to hear machinist Phil Hilliker (in the photo above) speaking to students Kyle Foote and Jon Fagan in Feb. 2015 (2 minutes 53 seconds).