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The Himara: Past. Present.... and Future? initiative worked to build awareness of the erratic development and foster community participation in planning. Underscored was the intention of building awareness of things that should be considered of intrinsic cultural value and to protect them.

 

This initiative centered on an exhibition that Ralph and his associates compiled that displayed photographs and drawings of Himara and its seven villages through time tracing their evolution starting from 1848 to the present. Working with the community, Ralph collected historical photographs from the schools, businesses, and individuals to assemble a “time zone”. Ralph obtained funding with a grant that he applied for from USAID sponsored by the municipality and in coordination with its employees and other members of the community.

 

Working together, the grant came to involve solidifying an little-used library for the exhibition, building awareness of the library and giving it greater purpose. The grant included financing for an industrial-strength sign for the library, and minor improvements for it.

Initial Idea:

"Himara: Past. Present.... and Future?" is to be a tool for the Himariot community’s progression into the future in a healthier manner: to bring better awareness of itself to itself. Considering this community has been repressed generally through and before communism it now has many challenges to address. The opportunity to stop and reflect has not occurred in the community's memory. The stimulus for this endeavor is to instigate a discussion on the idea of: What next? Himara has been a heartfelt encounter for many visitors, while naturally it is too for those born here; with development accelerating unchecked, it is important for the community to grasp the fundamentals of what makes this place holy and find the methods to preserve them.

 

In 2011 Lonely Planet chose Albania for its number one destination of Top Ten Countries to visit for the year. Now that it is 2013, The Huffington Post has echoed a similar sentiment, with a concise explanation in its article titled, "Ten Reasons 2013 Is The Time To Visit Albania". The first paragraph the of the article summarizes it succinctly:

 

"Isolated for decades under a dictatorship that was harsh even by Communist standards, Albania opened up in the 1990s and has since been hustling to catch up to the rest of Europe. On a recent visit, many locals complained that their country might be catching up too fast. For travelers that's all the more reason to visit soon, before busloads of tourists convert secret spots into more crowded destinations."

 

What is already changing quickly may very well do so on a compounding curve of development. Things are nearing a pivotal moment in a community that has already seen a lot. This community values its orchards of olives, oranges, and figs, its craggy landscape, and its simplicity, it loves its clean water; for its history I will save for them to (gladly) share—.

 

The impetus for this exhibition derived from the lack of engagement this community exhibits regarding its future. Development "plans" and are myopic currently. The idea is to create a exhibition about the community (old photographs, maps, artifacts, et cetera) in the library to instigate a discussions about its future.

A New Library Sign

Some of the grant money for Himara: Past. Present... and Future? went towards a new sign for the community library.

 

The sign is a piece of steel, laser-cut with the community's coat of arms and what translates to "Himara Community Library". The larger rectangular opening in it is a magnetic letter board with a piece of Plexiglas that slides in-and-out to change the messages. The sign is illuminated from behind with LED lights connected to a light sensor.