Everyone needs to be involved in preserving history

I recently read two Minnesota newspaper pieces that have a comparable theme. One written from a “genealogical” standpoint that evolved into what many people regard as a historian’s job. The other was written by a university professor encouraging involvement in history today.

Both encourage engagement in the history of people and places. That’s what I and many others do every day as family historians and some of us go far beyond our own families. We might venture next to a school, church, or business history. I’ve been involved in the history and genealogy of several Native American Tribes. I’ve worked for authors doing music and military histories. I’ve volunteered at a county historical society, a large religious archive, and with multiple genealogical organizations.

The first article is an opinion column in the March 28th Duluth News Tribune by Steve Matthews, an associate professor of history at the University of Minnesota Duluth. It was titled “Local View: The power to preserve history belongs to the people.”

“Every semester I have students in my office explaining to me how they came to love history, or at least something about it. The students are not always history majors, but they are always eager to discuss something that has fired their imagination from the past. Frequently, I hear about an experience at a museum or historic location, but the story never ends there. The student is always eager to let me know what a difference that experience made in their thinking.” Matthews goes on to discuss public history, learning and preserving at the local level, and finishes with “Become a member of your local historical society. Volunteer. Become part of the network that preserves these encounters for all.” [Genealogical organizations do the same and many do it in conjunction with local libraries and historical societies.] https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/opinion/columns/local-view-the-power-to-preserve-history-belongs-to-the-people

The other piece is from the March 31st Wadena Pioneer Journal, an opinion from Jebb Willis, the new interim executive director of the Wadena County Historical Society. He talks about his life journey of marriage, children, career, and more and then the family history pursuit in retirement. Not only did he work on his own history but undertook the work of documenting the history of 1950s Wadena-Deer Creek High School basketball players who played for his dad, the coach. He gave thanks to the help from the county historical society and the past director.

He says he adopted this simple principle, “Cherish the past, embrace the present, and eagerly anticipate the future.” My good friend, Bruce Sweere, who has recently been bitten by the bug, texted me to say, “…this going back in time is addictive.” My reply was, “As the Beatles so aptly sang, I believe in yesterday.” Willis’ next task will be involving residents, businesses, and organizations willing talk about the past, the present, and the future of our historical society.”

I don’t have ancestral connections to Wadena area, but I still hope that Willis will flesh out the society’s website and talk about the historical holdings of the society. Researchers need to know what might help us when we look to that website for help.


I hope both of these writers saw me nodding my head in agreement with what they wrote!

© 2024, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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2 comments on “Everyone needs to be involved in preserving history

  1. I told my daughter she needs to save our old encyclopedia so that in years to come there will be an alternative viewpoint to historical events before history was rewritten (today’s new history).

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