Updated: Feb 10
¨A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.¨ - Marcus Garvey
Imagine if you had to introduce yourself to people just as you are without any vestige of your history. You can only tell people who you are and what you are doing right this minute. Not half an hour ago, not yesterday, not a month ago, not ten years ago. That conversation about the this-minute-present you would not last very long. And perhaps, not too exciting.
History is not something we can cut off, pretend it does not exist, or stuff in a cupboard and let it be forgotten. It is where we came from and it lives in all aspects of our lifestyles - in the buildings around us, in the food we eat, in how we dress, in the industries that surround us, in our language, and our behaviours.
History is undeniable.
Connecting with Stories
HiSTORY. That is essentially what histories are. Stories. They are a series of stories in the past.
Storytelling is a vital part of human culture and it is a powerful device that helps to connect cultures and communities across time. Children often sit fascinated listening to stories and as adults, we love sharing stories of the past as well. How often have you heard your grandparents (and dare we say it…we ourselves as well, once age catches up), ¨Back in our times, we used to…¨.
Humans have a fondness for personal nostalgia, for our own unique Golden Age and we love dressing up the past to make it glow like the present can never glow. We need our history. We need it to know where we came from. It gives us our identity and helps to keep us grounded and rooted.
We tell our children about our past and we also have stories that have been passed down to us from our grandparents. They can be funny anecdotes or painful stories of grief. Either way, their value lies in being told over and over again through the generations. It allows us to connect through our families, and with our communities.
Our personal histories are important and so are our collective histories.
This brings us to looking at historical museums.
Historical museums are misunderstood places. People tend to view historical museums as old-looking buildings that are essentially like storerooms to keep "old stuff from the past" and it is where schools take students on excursions.
Truth is, if you had the chance to really get to know historical museums, and allow yourself to be like a child and get curious, you will find that these ¨quiet¨ places are gems full of life and excitement and you may even find bits of yourself in these huge quiet rooms.
Anyone who has had the luck to have had interesting history teachers share a common experience - these teachers had a knack for bringing history to life. They can tell you about the past and make it feel like you are reliving the history right here, right now. Whether you are a gladiator in a bloody arena or a soldier freezing in the trenches, a historical story well-told is branded in your mind forever. And more than that, it is usually the spark that makes you want to learn more.
There is a good reason for schools to take students to historical museums on excursions. Historical museums are where we can experience our collective histories. In one single place, everyone can gather together to understand and appreciate what they share in common. It helps to forge and strengthen the social identities and connections of people from the area.