I've been experimenting with a really simple way to get boards (and staff and volunteers) involved in community history to begin thinking about the why of what they do. But it doesn't start with why, it starts with a what, a question about what single object represents their history. Last weekend I was down on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, working with such a group. I began the board meeting by asking each person to describe a single object that represented the county's history to them. I've tried this before and the answers are always both thoughtful and surprising. This time was no exception.
The group of 12 or so named not a single object that could be classified as a museum collection object--but taken together, they really did represent a history of this place. Here's some of the responses:
- The courthouse. I love to sit in the square in front and think.
- The marshes, the backroads and the rhythm of nature
- My great grandfather
- My neighbor Brud...an intense, colorful local history learned from him
- The Bay Bridge..."I'm almost there" when I cross it