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QuakeBox Take 2

If You Contributed to the QuakeBox in 2012, the University of Canterbury Needs Your Help

For eight months in 2012 the University of Canterbury’s QuakeBox shipping container was a familiar sight around Canterbury. Outfitted as a recording studio, the QuakeBox collected 120 hours of earthquake stories from over 700 people.

Professor Paul Millar, of the University of Canterbury’s College of Arts, recalls how humbling it was to find so many people willing to share experiences that had often been painful and traumatising. ‘I could hardly bring myself to tell my own story,’ says Millar. ‘To find so many Cantabrians from all walks of life prepared to sit in front of a camera and talk about events that were still immediate and difficult, impressed all of us.’

The original QuakeBox project was intended to be a one-off effort to collect earthquake stories for various types of analysis, and to preserve a broad record of people’s experiences. However, the researchers soon realised that the QuakeBox stories were the first step towards creating an even more valuable resource that could enable a world-leading study of disaster narratives. ‘We were searching through the international academic literature on post-disaster story-telling, and we discovered that no major longitudinal studies of retelling of disaster narratives from a cohort of similarly affected participants had ever been carried out,’ said Millar. ‘In other words, there is almost no useful information on the way people’s stories of their experiences during and after a major disaster change over time.’

The QuakeBox team realised that if they could ask the people who gave their stories in 2012 to update their stories to the present, they could significantly advance understanding of the telling and retelling of dramatic and traumatic experiences. ‘It’s our belief that multi-faceted perspectives of people’s experiences over the long term have a lot to tell us about post-disaster recovery and adaptation. For future disaster response, such information could usefully inform decision making to support wellbeing and recovery.’ The Royal Society Te Apārangi agreed that such research could be valuable, and awarded the team a 3-year Marsden Fund Grant to carry out a second round of interviews, which they’re calling QuakeBox: Take 2.

‘We have one small problem,’ says Millar. ‘Because we expected the original QuakeBox project to be a one-off, we don’t have contact records for our original interviewees.’ Millar hopes that many of the people who shared their earthquake stories will be happy to support the new project by providing a seven-year-update on what has happened since. ‘And maybe even a 14 year update, if they are happy to keep in touch with us,’ he adds, optimistically.

If you were part of QuakeBox 2012, or know someone who was, and could continue to take part, call 03 369 3370 or email quakeboxtake2@canterbury.ac.nz.


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