Why Local Histories Matter
First published, Lake Scugog Historical Society Newsletter, Spring/Summer 2019
I am not a historian. I am, however, someone who appreciates the importance of histories, and believes that a conscious effort to preserve and express an understanding of all of the voices and traditions that make us who we are, in a particular place and time, is critical to the development of a social conscience.
I have used the term histories – plural. I do so because the other side of the fragmentation and division that is taking place during our own cultural moment is the positive recognition that there are many stories and many perspectives that must be recognized and brought together, if we are to understand who we are and where we have been. Some of these accounts do not agree with each other. However, I believe that we need to have the awkward and difficult conversations that such competing claims present. These conversations should be with each other and with our children.
We cannot engage in these conversations if we do not have an awareness of our histories. Our understanding of the past informs the policies, legislation, attitudes and societal morals that dictate all aspects of our lives. And whether or not we consider some aspects of these stories to be entirely fulsome and positive, we cannot fully know who we wish to become without knowing them. In our ever changing, fast-paced world, our histories are what help us to focus our values and sense of identity. From them, we gain a greater understanding of the connections between the past and present. We learn that many human experiences are universal. We come to grasp how the many stories that have created us, as part of this community, continue to shape and impact our current political realities.
Local histories, in particular, contain the details and stories of life gone by and demonstrate how the circumstances of a particular time and place have made an impact on the lives of ordinary people. By valuing our heritage, we may come to a deeper appreciation of such things as a desire for justice, an appreciation of our freedoms, a deep respect for innovation and a celebration of traditions. Our histories allow us to see where we come from in context. Finally, having knowledge of such histories allows us, a community, to move forward in an informed way. The Lake Scugog Historical Society encourages us to continue those conversations.