When I ask myself; what is history? The logical answer that comes to mind is ‘people’. Nothing more or nothing less than every single thing that humans have ever done in their lives – the groups they form, the things they make or construct, how they live together or apart, how they love and fight from the microcosm of the family right through to a grand-scale sweeping thematic view of decades and ages of time.
In essence, history is from the people, of the people and I believe; for the people. It should be accessible, understandable, appealing, exciting and engaging – not fusty, musty and locked away, either in distance archives or obfuscated beyond use into the unwieldy language of the academic elite.
In many ways this subject has offered me to most fertile ground for expressing this view of history – as well as doing an excellent job of me undertaking my first journey as (semi)professional historian. Perhaps a good metaphor for this is training wheels – keeping me upright as I fly off joyfully down the occasionally bumpy road of a community history project.
And occasionally bumpy it has been, having had to change community organizations mid-way through, I’m now working for/with the Newtown Neighborhood Center to create a ‘creative historical exhibition’ for their 40th birthday celebrations. I’m really excited for this, which is looking like it will take the form of semi-permanent gallery style exhibition with a series of paste up posters featuring both images and historical information. We’re also discussing some archival work which is really exciting; because as my contact at the center says ‘who knows what’s in there!’
I’ve been really fortunate in my organization in terms of how much our views of what history should be/look like seem very similar – we both place a similar level of importance on all members of the public from university educated people to small children to elders to people who may not have fully completed their schooling to be able to understand and enjoy the information we discover. Doubly fortunately, we both feel that a key factor of this is a creative and visually appealing presentation of this information – something that very neatly intersects with my personal interest and experience with visual arts and mural painting/design.
Despite being off to a bit of a slow start, I’m so excited to see what this project will develop into!