"RISING: Perspectives of Change on the North Carolina Coast" is an exhibit that recently opened in the Center for the Study of the American South on Franklin Street. The exhibit synthesizes the disciplines of oral history, photography and science to educate the general population on the effects of climate change on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Ryan Stancil, the oral historian behind the project, conducted interviews with various individuals on the Outer Banks to further investigate how climate change affects their day-to-day lives. Stancil partnered with photographer Baxter Miller to compile these stories and weave these interviews with powerful images.
“We were left with this body of work after this helicopter trip,” Miller said. “We thought, ‘What does this mean?’ and we kept coming back to this idea of 'RISING,' not only 'RISING' above the geography to interpret the land and the region from a new perspective.”
Stancil said that when you're above the barrier island system, "you really start to understand what rhythm of sand means." He recognizes how important the island is to its inhabitants.
"There were sections of the barrier island that are incredibly thin and people who deeply love that region," he said. "It’s very concerning to see places that you love potentially be threatened by changes in climate, and in a lot of our work, we have talked to a lot of folks and wondered how their stories might have risen above the discourse that occurs around these issues.”
Walking through the exhibit is a unique experience. The hallway is adorned with photographs of the Outer Banks' residents. Photographs share wall space with labels that carry the stories gathered through the interviews. The exhibit pushes the question of what climate change means to those living by the ocean, and how their lives are directly influenced by changing water levels.
Emily Wallace, the deputy editor of the center's publication "Southern Cultures," was responsible for helping design the exhibit hall. She said that the importance of this exhibit stems from the ability to ask individuals “how climate change is affecting their day-to-day lives from closing up during hurricanes to personal flood insurance to not being able to afford flood insurance, so you’re getting the voices of the people who actually live there.”
Climate change can feel like a distant problem. Its multifaceted influence on the world can be incomprehensible. The oral history aspect of "RISING" humanizes climate change.
Individuals are living through drastic floods and finding themselves unable to cope with the rapid change. A photograph in the exhibit features a grocery store nearly emptied of its supplies.
The oral histories in duality with the photographs of the Outer Banks bring a new perspective to climate change. The exhibit emphasizes the importance of being aware of climate change and its direct influence on the individual’s life.
"The research component is an effort to get a better understanding of coastal residents' perspectives on change on the North Carolina coast and how that’s impacted them, if and how they’ve adapted and their thoughts about the need to prepare and adapt for a more resilient tomorrow,” Stancil said.
"RISING: Perspectives of Change on the North Carolina Coast" will be on display through Spring 2018 in the Center for the Study of the American South, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.