By Amy Stephens
Some people just love history.
Some people don’t. Or think they don’t.
Obviously, I’m one who loves history. I was fortunate to have good history teachers (even the coaches), and my large family always had a good sense of their roots. Now, I’m working hard at developing museum exhibits that I hope are relevant and inspiring to our visitors.
But for folks who just don’t have an interest in history—does my museum work really matter? They don’t really care about exhibits, right? They’d rather be golfing or gardening. It’s a question that many historically-minded people and organizations have grappled with.
Anita Schlaht, the director of the Edmond Historical Society and Museum, is among those who seek to express the importance of history to the uninterested. “At a recent community meeting this topic came up, and I was disturbed to realize the lack of understanding among this group of what we do at the museum, why we do it, and why it is important,” stated Anita.
She recently received a value statement from The History Relevance Campaign that identifies “The Value of History: Seven Ways it is Essential.” It basically started as a grassroots movement by public historians to support anyone, especially educators and small museums, who are being questioned about the value of sharing history.
In a nutshell, people who lack interest in history—are still part of history. They cannot escape it! History is the identity of our world and its foundation. See what they have to say (or visit historyrelevance.com)….
History Relevance: The Value of History
Seven Ways it is Essential TO US PERSONALLY
IDENTITY » History nurtures personal and collective identity in a diverse world. People discover their place in time through stories of their families, communities, and nation. These stories of freedom and equality, injustice and struggle, loss and achievement, and courage and triumph shape people’s personal values that guide them through life.
CRITICAL THINKING » History teaches vital skills. Historical thinking requires critical approaches to evidence and argument and develops contextual understanding and historical perspective, encouraging meaningful engagement with concepts like continuity, change, and causation, and the ability to interpret and communicate complex ideas clearly and coherently.
TO OUR COMMUNITIES
VIBRANT COMMUNITIES » History is the foundation for strong, vibrant communities. A place becomes a community when wrapped in human memory as told through family stories, tribal traditions, and civic commemorations as well as discussions about our roles and responsibilities to each other and the places we call home.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT » History is a catalyst for economic growth. Communities with cultural heritage institutions and a strong sense of historical character attract talent, increase tourism revenues, enhance business development, and fortify local economies.
TO OUR FUTURE
ENGAGED CITIZENS » History helps people envision a better future. Democracy thrives when individuals convene to express opinions, listen to others, and take action. Weaving history into discussions about contemporary issues clarifies differing perspectives and misperceptions, reveals complexities, grounds competing views in evidence, and introduces new ideas; all can lead to greater understanding and viable community solutions.
LEADERSHIP » History inspires leaders. History provides today’s leaders with role models as they navigate through the complexities of modern life. The stories of persons from the past can offer direction to contemporary leaders and help clarify their values and ideals.
LEGACY » History, saved and preserved, is the foundation for future generations. Historical knowledge is crucial to protecting democracy. By preserving authentic and meaningful documents, artifacts, images, stories, and places, future generations have a foundation on which to build and know what it means to be a member of the civic community
Wow! Did you read that?
History is vital and inspirational. History protects our way of life. History can even make money. These are pretty motivating reasons to care about history–whether one likes history or not!
According to Anita, “At the Edmond Historical Society & Museum we plan to use these seven principles as our focus this year. We plan to share them with our Board and our visitors. We are designing posters that will be displayed for all those who enter our museum to see our purpose. And we are planning to share them with our community every chance we get.”
I personally have a renewed sense of urgency as I work to develop my next museum exhibit, because whatever story I’ll be sharing is crucial to the identity and foundation of this world.
Still don’t like history, you say? You’d rather be playing sports, working in the garden or listening to music? Fair enough, but what if your nearby museum has created an awesome exhibit about sports, gardening or music. Go see it and then ask yourself if you care a little bit more about history.
Now is history relevant?