LAFAYETTE — From the early struggles of making a life in the swamps to the modern challenges involved in crawfish farming, folks in south Louisiana always have relied on their creativity to get by.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Center for Louisiana Studies will explore that ingenuity in a series beginning Friday called “Vernacular Inventions of South Louisiana.”
Vernacular inventions are “items created out of necessity from the environment and available materials” to make daily living easier, said Jennifer Ritter Guidry, assistant director of programming and special projects at the center.
Demonstrations and hands-on exercises are scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Lafayette Science Museum to serve as an overview of inventive thought.
“In this area, we wouldn’t be here without our creativity,” Guidry said. “From the beginning, we were met with extreme challenges that we needed to use our background experience and creative problem-solving to overcome. Sometimes, we forget about that.”
Barry Ancelet, head of the Department of Modern Languages at UL-Lafayette, recently created his own vernacular invention.
Guidry said Ancelet, who is participating in Friday’s event, used a metal pole found in his father’s shed, a 10-ounce beer can filled with cement and a plastic cup to create an object that easily cuts figs from the top of a fig tree without letting the fruit fall to the ground.
The local crawfish industry is replete with vernacular inventions, from boats with wheels for easy movement across crawfish pond levees, to special tanks to clean crawfish, to heavy-duty crawfish serving trays.
“Someone had to make the first object out of necessity,” Guidry said. “Then as people used it, they’ve improved it and adapted it to their environment, like being able to make a machine portable to move off-site.”
The event continues on Nov. 21 with a tour of the McIlhenny Tabasco plant on Avery Island and the Acadian Museum in Erath.
Shane Bernard, with McIlhenny Archives, will display items formerly used to photograph and hunt wildlife.
“The goal of all of this is to just get the conversations started,” Guidry said. “People are going to be surprised from the things they discover and the things they hadn’t thought about in that perspective.”
For more information on the event and how to register, visit http://cls.louisiana.edu/news-events/events/20141103/backyard-immersion-2014- vernacular-inventions-forum.