I facilitate a five week downsizing course at the Rivier College Institute for Senior Education (55+), RISE. Recently, one woman said her husband is writing his memoirs and the theme is segregation. Both from the South originally, they had different experiences with segregation and are working on passing along their experiences to their children. I was taken aback when she said that many people don’t know what segregation was about.
Yet another example of so many years having passed that many people and even our culture forget our past. Where we’ve come from. What makes us who we are today. The lessons we are supposed to learn from our history. How we related to other communities around us.
Another recent example here in New Hampshire was the closing of the Women’s Business Center for women entrepreneurs. I am 51; I give you my age so you’ll know that I was not old enough to understand much about segregation. I understood and lived through more about feminism and the women’s movement. Nevertheless, perhaps because I am interested in our pasts and in history, I’m very aware of where we’ve come from.
ack to our conversation. He’s writing his memoirs, and wisely, has chosen a theme to his writing. My classmate wondered who, beyond their family, would eventually be interested in his writings. My automatic reaction was how lucky some institution, college or museum would be to have the writings. I also asked her to think about – no surprise – their “stuff.” Which items could eventually be packaged with his memoirs when he did gift his writings to an interested institution. What objects do they own which maybe they don’t notice anymore in their home, but would make a broader story, and support his memoirs. For specific possibilities of an eventual gift, if that’s the way they decide to go, I’d ask Melissa Mannon at ArchivesInfo.
The next interesting observation from one of the women was commented that this is what I’m so good at. I think about who else would enjoy what you are giving away and trying to find a new home for. It is a creative occupation to discover the answers sometimes. The question often peaks my curiosity from an historical perspective as well as from the reuse standpoint. I can think more broadly because it’s not my stuff. I don’t know how the item’s been used or how you felt about it. I’m looking for what would interest someone else.
And more often than we realize, it’s these important items which document our communities and our broader culture for the future.
Imagine what people will say decades from now when they read this man’s writings and look at the belongings assembled with his writings. The observers will look into the glass museum case or under the glass at the memoir pages. They’ll wonder how this segregation started and ended. How it affected people and our institutions. They’ll know the major players, perhaps family of theirs. They’ll know how we communicated our stories. What objects we used to document the culture at the time.
And because one man and one woman cared so deeply to pass along their stories, people will learn lessons, learn where they came from, understand more about their ancestors and their times. What a gift in these fast times.