I live in a very small town of 1700 people. In our town in the early 90’s we created a City Museum. It was strictly dedicated to our town and surrounding area. Sad to say that more people passing through our town use the Museum than the local residents. I believe that is the way it is in most communities. However, there are still some individuals that are committed to the success of our Museum.
As my wife and I have traveled a lot on short trips since my retirement as a teacher, we love to check out different museums. Most museums are free or the admission is very small. Some of these communities have “Historical Societies” that support their local museums. They have fund raisers to help pay the bills. They volunteer their services as receptionists. They are always looking for ways to make an impact on the past for the future. Some societies charge dues for membership. Some have boards of directors that govern how things proceed and are spent. All for the good of preserving the past.
History is the story about people, buildings, things, and past events. A museum is a way to preserve those. Our town bought an old library building from the city for one dollar. Before they sold it, they put on a new roof and updated the wiring to code. The museum committee went to work collecting newspaper articles and items for the museum. Our City Museum was on it’s way to being a part of our community.
Most people aren’t interested when they are young. This might be because they have their families and livelihoods to attend to. However, once they retire and have more time on their hands, they get more interested.
Schools don’t have classes on local history. They focus on World and American History. this also helps in keeping the interest at low level for a local community museum. Most individuals come to a museum with a special interest in mind. They might be looking for a lost grave or piece of property. Some might be looking for past family members. Some people want to discover what other citizens have done to contribute to their city or town. Many people are interested in what impact their own family had on their community. Still others like to see who their families are related to. Different reasons for different people.
A Historical Society can help in saving the past for the future, future generations that is. That is their main reason for being. The city museum is just a tool that is used to help preserve the past.
If your town or city doesn’t have a museum, here are some suggestions to get one started. First form a group of interested citizens. Seniors are great for this. They have the time and the experience to draw on. Second, meet with the Village board or City Council and explain your goal and ask for help. Third, expand out to different groups in your community. It could be churches, VFW’s, Kiwanis, Lion’s, and Chamber of Commerce. Fourth, Organize your chapter. Last but just as important, visit other museums and historical societies in your area. Seek their help and ideas.
Once you have done this, things will start to take care of themselves. Don’t be in a hurry either. Keep a record of all that work for it’s development and a time line of events that made your work a success. After all ,it will be recorded as history for the future.