Thursday, October 21, 2010

Genealogical & Family History Archives & Library Collections

"I hate history," said a high school student recently outside the MPL Indiana Room. "Nothing but endless dates, names of kings, presidents, or generals, and a lot of irrelevant events that no one can relate to." I certainly sympathize. Memorizing meaningless minutiae is the bane of primary and secondary education.

I hope this student has the opportunity to discover what I first learned in college and have had reinforced ever since: History is every life experience. You're living history right now. Each life tells a unique story. This makes each life narrative priceless. The great tragedy is that so many of these voices are lost in time.

Do you have any undated photographs featuring unidentified persons? I often wonder, as I encounter these types of images (usually in donated materials to the library), who were these people? Their facial expressions, especially their eyes, remind me that we are very much alike. I imagine we shared similar dreams, hopes, feelings, and even ideas. These people should not be discarded upon the heap of modern indifference to the past. They deserved better.

Above all the other wonderful things libraries do for people, at the top of my list is the preservation of family and local histories, genealogical information, and realia from our collective days of yore. This is why I work in a library. I want to help people reconnect with their pasts in personal, meaningful ways. Archives and historical and genealogical library collections are the vanguards of memory. They preserve a past that makes us understand who we have been, have become, or will become. We support these valiant efforts with a "treasure trove" video (below). We hope you enjoy it and encourage you to support your libraries and archives. The past--especially yours and mine--is a flower forever in bloom.

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