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Village chronicler

At the pulse of village life

Every Ötztal community has a village chronicler. The job is volunteer. Enthusiasm for local history and culture are just as much part of the job description as careful collecting and archiving. Sölden's old and new village chroniclers tell of the variety of their tasks in the service of historiography.

Smooth transition

“I'm still quite new to the profession, that's why my predecessor Ewald Schöpf will also be here,” explains Franz Scheiber when we arrange our meeting in Sölden by phone. In the village chronicler's office with two computers and heaps of folders and files, Ewald introduces himself and his successor Franz as follows: “I was the analog, Franz is the digital village chronicler.” Covering a total area of 468 km², Sölden is Austria’s largest municipality in size. Around 3000 people live in the hamlets of Gurgl, Heiligkreuz, Sölden, Vent and Zwieselstein. Franz and Ewald are gradually digitizing all the analog documents, which testify to what once moved the people of Sölden and what moves them today.

 

Seniors anything but retired

Franz was a senior public official in the municipality of Sölden until his retirement in 2020. Ewald, who had retired as principal school director since 2002, acted as the official village chronicler from 1984 to 2020. Both are anything but retired: They will always be part of their village, its history and fortunes. “I haven't gotten out of collecting for all these decades,” says Ewald. His greatest treasure is a rich collection of old postcards. Fairly impressive, all these folders full of pictures: The change from a mountain village to one of Austria's largest tourist destinations can be seen as if in time lapse. Franz wants to transfer everything that Ewald has recorded in analog to a central digital village archive. “This way I get a good overview of everything we already have and keep getting new information. But the most helpful is of course to learn from Ewald himself,” he says.

Village chronicler Ewald & Franz

Back to the roots

We laypeople usually think of the word “village chronicler” as someone who deals mainly with the past. Ewald and Franz teach me better as we talk about their areas of responsibility. Yes, local genealogical, historical or cultural research already play a major role: Nobody rushes into an unpaid honorary position if they are not passionate about the roots of their village.

 

Taming current floods of information

"But we also have to register everything in words and pictures that is currently happening in our community, what is published about it or their personalities, what associations such as the fire brigade or the brass music band do, what is being restored or rebuilt," Franz emphasizes. Ewald specifies: "It is very difficult to record and manage this huge amount of information - we also have to be a competent contact and information point for interested researchers." Franz and Ewald already have two committed colleagues. First of all, Sölden's mayor Ernst Schöpf: he equips the voluntary chroniclers with the necessary material resources and has also created a municipal audio-visual archive of contemporary witnesses in order to keep the cultural and social heritage of all five hamlets alive. Second, the teacher Brunhilde Hochschwarzer: she documents the history of World War I in the municipality.

"Several clubs, associations and private persons also contribute to the chronicle of current and past events," adds Ewald. But also village chroniclers dream of the future. For him and Franz, volunteer chronicler helpers as permanent, reliable contacts in every hamlet would be a really great thing.

 

INFO

An abundance of videos containing a true treasure trove of Sölden locals’ memories is available free of charge at  www.zeitzeugen-soelden.at

Isolde v. Mersi

Guest author: Isolde v. Mersi

Isolde von Mersi comes from South Tyrol's Pustertal valley and lives in Vienna now. As a popular reporter and book writer for Austrian and German magazines and publishing houses, she explores a huge variety of cultural, culinary and naturalistic treasures of the Alpine countries and its people.

She has been feeling at home in Ötztal for many years already as she contributes to the ÖTZTAL MAGAZINE on a regular basis. And she has found many friends in the valley.

ÖTZTAL MAGAZINE

Isolde v. Mersi also reports on the work of the Ötztal Village chroniclers in the ÖTZTAL MAGAZINE - Summer 2021. The print magazine with the latest and most interesting stories about Ötztal’s spring, summer and autumn seasons is available free of charge in DE/EN from all Ötztal Tourismus Information Offices. You can order it at www.oetztal.com and have it delivered to your home or view it as a flip-through brochure.