An Ode to Local History Community Involvement

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My town’s infamous 1940s fire truck (in process of restoration) – photo credit: L. Flewelling

To me, transnational history is about the balance between the local and the global, and so I think it’s appropriate on our blog to delve into the hyper-local: getting involved in local history promotion and preservation in our own communities.

One of the highlights of the past year for me has been volunteering for my town’s historical commission.  My hometown in Colorado, founded in the 1890s, was a coal mining company town until the mine closed in 1945.  From then on, it remained as a rural community of about 250 people until developers stepped in, in the late 1980s.

As a volunteer for the historical commission, it has been exciting to see how the commission members’ enthusiasm for local history has prompted the town board to support historic preservation and sharing local history with the community.  (The excited reactions to preserving the town’s old fire truck have been a personal highlight for me.)  There wouldn’t really be any reason for the town board to prioritize these things except for the interest and passion of community members.  Our town does not have any legal protections for historic structures, so it’s up to community members to make sure that what is still here is preserved.

It’s been especially great to see in this case how giving voice to our passion for history and showing our enthusiasm has influenced town funding decisions and made town board members excited to work with the historical commission.  I was just appointed an historical commissioner for my town, and would encourage anyone with an interest in history to see how they can get involved in historic preservation and telling the story of their local area’s history.  To me, drawing out stories of local community history is a great way to find entry points that anyone can relate to and latch on to, to create a wider interest in history overall amongst the general public.

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1890s farmhouse and barn – photo credit: L. Flewelling

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