Saving History

We’ve just celebrated Memorial Day, a time when we recall those who have sacrificed their lives to keep future generations free. From the beaches of Normandy to the Civil War battlefields, museums and monuments and annual ceremonies commemorate the deeds and people who have gone before so that those who come after can learn from them.

The work of those preserving local history is far less dramatic, but remembering and preserving our town’s stories carries importance as well. That’s why it’s sad to see the dearth of young and middle-aged people in most local historical societies. The diligence of those devoted to preserving an individual town’s history is commendable, but in most cases, it falls to the older residents to take on that role, while younger people go on with their lives, often unaware of the striking historical facts that came together to make up their home town.

History offers a great lesson to us. To study the past is to know the future we all know the phrase “history repeats itself” and being involved in preserving a town’s heritage offers us guidance about why things are the way they are today.

If you live in an antique house, you probably already have researched previous owners. But in New England, we all live in historical communities and what better way to find out their stories than by volunteering at your local historical society or museum.

Volunteering for your community is one of the most important and potentially most satisfying things a person can do. And spending those volunteer hours with a local historical society enables residents to network with others who share similar interests, and brings a better understanding of a town’s uniqueness that many people never get to know.

It’s also a chance for different age groups to work together for a common and non-threatening goal: making sure that future generations of residents understand what has gone on before to create the town that we know today.

Did a now-long-gone train bring big-city residents to summer at the lake? Did industry play a role in settling specific areas of town? The answers can be found in town history.

What we do today will be history tomorrow. Helping out to preserve the past links us both to those who have gone before, and those who will come afterward. That’s a reassuring thought in today’s rapidly changing world.

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