Wednesday, June 24, 2015
World War Wednesdays Brain Log: Faces of History
World War Wednesdays has definitely followed my historical career over the past year in a lot of ways, and I'm really excited to be able to look back on it in the future to see how far I've come. I figured it's been a while since I checked in and did a post for where I'm at right now, so here's a bit of a brain log for this week!
If you didn't already know, I'm working for the summer at Elgin County Archives and it's already been almost a month! In this short time, I've already learned a lot and it's made me think a lot about my perspective on life and ideas about history. Most significantly, I've been thinking a lot about what is left to remember a person long after they are gone.
Since my job involves newspaper digitization, I deal with materials that sometimes cover the better part of a person's life. Newspapers in the past covered so much more of the events in people's lives, and I've come across so many unbelievable, interesting, and tragic stories about the fine folks of Elgin County. I've also learned a lot just by flipping over some of these articles. I've encountered articles about historical events involving some of the more notable Canadians that I read about more often, and some that are comically indicative of how much things have changed (like why people should think about buying a smoke alarm and how women should react to their husband's cheating). Reading these newspapers and the people's stories has really added a personal element to the history, and that's one of my favorite parts.
This brings us to the topic that literally makes me feel sick and want to curl up in a ball of tears. The fact that more and more, the little pieces of the past that we have in print are becoming the only thing we have of that time as the people themselves disappear. There are fewer and fewer people everyday who can tell us what life was like when Diefenbaker was Prime Minister or when ladies followed etiquette books.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that we should all take advantage of the faces of history that are near to us before they are just a photograph in a newspaper. Go call your grandma and ask her something out of left field about her life in, say, the 1960s and I guarantee she'll love answering. It's something that people love talking about but rarely get the chance, and I promise you'll appreciate the new perspective.
I've had the privilege of meeting several Holocaust survivors and veterans, and those are some of the most memorable experiences of my life. As time marches on, such experiences have become increasingly rare, but I hold them very dearly when they do happen. I've also come to realize and appreciate the histories of the people a bit closer to me, and I think that we could all benefit from tuning in to what our older relatives can tell us about life. And if you've missed an opportunity or wish you knew more, you'd be surprised at the kinds of things you can find at Elgin County Archives.
Here's a link if you'd like to start exploring:
Thanks for reading,