Posts Tagged ‘history’

History is fun. History helps us understand how things came to be the way they are and links us to the joys and sorrows, successes and failures, of those who came before us. It gives us perspective on the past and informs our choices about the future.

And yet many people seem to have been traumatized by their high school American history class where they were required to memorize names and dates and places without anyone pointing out why that knowledge might be useful to them. Classroom history often strips history of the basic human element that makes it interesting and relevant.

People might not like “history,” but ten years of working in museums has shown me that people do like stories. Much of history is just that – stories – but put into context so they become meaningful and relevant to the individual. Those stories can enlighten us, or make us laugh, or shock us and make us thankful we live today. (Or perhaps wish that we had lived in another time, without cars and electricity and computers.) But history done properly should touch us, inspire us, elicit some kind of response.

We live in a mobile society and spend much of our time whizzing past places in cars or buses or trains, unable to stop and really look at the places around us. Many of us spend more time commuting or sleeping than exploring our own communities. It doesn’t take long for communities (especially fast-growing ones) to lose their individuality as the stories and landmarks that made them unique are forgotten or lost.

So much of history isn’t visible on the surface; you have to look for it. Get out for a walk or take your bicycle out for a spin, add a measure of observation and a dollop of curiosity, and you’ll be surprised at the stories that lurk beneath the surface of your neighborhood that link you to the people who came before. Chat with friends and neighbors and listen to their stories. You never know what you’ll find out.

I’ll be exploring the Twin Cities area as a newcomer, trying to discover the stories of the people who built my adopted hometown and made it what it is today. What better way to connect with my new home than learning the stories of the places I see regularly as I go about my business?

Some of my ‘discoveries’ may be old hat to longtime residents even if they’re new to me.¬†You never know, I might stumble across something new to you, too. So come along on my rambles. And let me know if you know some good stories about this place we call home.


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