This week’s cover story asks important questions about who records and collects history, and who can access it. History itself is more than a book and more than an official record. It’s built and rebuilt in conversation, in posts across social media, in the act of remembering and sharing the lives and contributions of those who’ve lived and acted before us.
And history isn’t always even that old. Sure, we can learn a lot from past centuries. But generations that came of age in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s have also already collected wisdom and experience to pass along. They’ve lived in spaces that no longer exist, and that many may long to build up again.
In a lot of cases, the stories exist, but is anyone collecting them? Are we reading or listening or seeking them out?
What we write in these pages becomes a part of the stories being written about the space we share and how we all live in it. Here, we prioritize telling the stories that aren’t being told elsewhere. We don’t often have room to dive deeply into every story. But we try, at the very least, to amass a collection of arrows that can point to those who know more than we do.
An incomplete history is an invitation to learn more, and also to question why certain histories are less complete than others. Whose perspectives are ensconced in museums and in bound volumes? Who is being published? Which research is being funded?
When we name the disparities in collecting history, we name the power structures at play in our society. From there, we can dig deeper and dream bigger. Historical information is far from neutral. The act of remembering can create radical shifts and can give us the fuel we need to imagine new futures.
Published in Volume 73, Number 8 of The Uniter (November 1, 2018)