I know I've been promising a historical piece on the mural series at the Library, but my mind keeps wandering onto other topics. I did state that this was going to be a random jaunt through Holyoke, so I suppose I did warn you. I do plan on getting to the more historically-based topics so stay tuned.
Today, as I have been preparing for my part of a talk on saving Holyoke's heritage to be given before the Rotary Club in Holyoke, I would like to address the need to preserve our city's heritage, and that of your own home town. (I do apologize if this gets a bit thick at times, it is one topic in which I believe emphatically)
While we all have a tendency to live in the moment, with our day-to-day lives taking precedent over that which went before, it is so important to stop and look back from whence we came (nope- I'm NOT going to break into the Circle Game- no worries). For if we do not save items that document our past there will be no mirror on those years when the elder members of our society pass on. Here are a few specific reasons for saving our past.
Children and Grandchildren often have an inherent need to know who they are and where they came from. Part of this process is finding out about their heritage. Plus, there is always that one school project where they will need to find out something about their family. It is ever so much easier if there is a piece of that history in the form of stories that have been passed down, or through photographs neatly annotated with the date and subject, family trees or well preserved artifacts, to tell one's own story.
2.Important Learning experiences
At times we can learn important imformation from those who went before. Is there a place on the river that was known to flood? Have there been storms that have hit our cities with hurricane-force winds without being necessarily known as hurricanes? And who exactly owns the piece of land that has sat dormant for years? All of these important questions can be answered with documents such as newspapers, oral histories, maps and deeds.
3.The advancement of scholarly research
It is important to step back and do detailed studies of historical topics. For if we don't pull back and look from the vantage of an outside observer, we often take for granted the advances we have made in technology, education and cultural and social development. For example, one need only look at the development of industry in Holyoke to see how fast we marched through several modes of power. From water-wheels, to steam-driven turbines, to electrically-driven turbines, to nuclear power, the human race has made awesome strides in a relatively short amount of time. Looking through the eyes of a Holyoker, I cannot help be excited by our history.
4. The prevention of over-zealous progress and eradication of history in the name of making way for the new.
Yes, I just mentioned that I am very excited about the vast technological advances that have occurred in Holyoke over the years. But, I also believe that it is possible to get too caught up in the unrelenting press foreword. This is perhaps a bit of a circular argument, that we must preserve our past to preserve our past, but bear with me here. I believe that if we work together in our respective communities to look back on where we came from that we can convince the powers that be that our heritage matters. When I think of places like Vegas, where they live relentlessly in the now it deeply saddens me, especially when the old Rat Pack casinos are implode to the ecstatic cheers of a future-driven society. But how can we who care about the past make an impact?
By joining your local Historical Commission, by working with your communities to educate people about the deeply historic places in your own towns, by saving photographs, stories and other mementos I believe that at least we can send up warning flags that perhaps history matters. Otherwise, buildings will be destroyed, historic records thrown, and the finely crafted pieces of our past will disappear, without any notice. And we will be left with a desert wasteland with ultra-modern buildings and no real memory of the past. Cold vision n'est pas?
So, how can you tell if something should be saved, and how can it be preserved? Tune in next week (tomorrow I promise to go back to the Library)