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View Full Version : Why is our History important? An opinion.



Thomas Hinderks
23-08-2012, 09:27 AM
History, largely overwhelmed by the Arts and Culture community and not just in Edmonton, but truly a Canadian phenomena.

Europe, the United States, a large portion of Asia all have strong historical communities, highly supported both through active attendance, philanthropy and all levels of government from Civic to National.

Why is it so important that we see other communities and countries support it so heavily?

To start with it's who we are...for better or worse it is a large part of what creates the identity of our community, Province, Country and Society.
It paints the picture of how we developed, what we have done, our achievements, our mistakes, our heroes and villains.


It is a way of looking back to see how our industry and trade developed, our education systems succeeded and failed, where we led the pack and trailed the field.

It is a large part of our where we draw our pride and gives new comers a background to be proud of while painting them an understanding of why we are who we are.

Collectively, it's our story.

It builds a foundation...
Of Civic, Provincial and Canadian pride, but much more.

It’s our corporate memory, what was promised, what promises were fulfilled. The visions and direction of those that came before us, what worked, what didn’t.

It shows the way to success economically, where and why we have the industries we do, how our economy was built. Our strengths and just as important…our weaknesses.

It can be our inspiration…
By looking back on where we have been leaders it can inspire us to reach new heights and give us a road map on how to get there…as people, a community, a Province and a Country. For those that cry we can’t, it shows us how we can. As a society, in the arts, industry, technology and much more.

It’s an economic driver…
Historic based tourism is and has been a major economic driver as people explore who they are and where they came from. History is an international attraction as our society travels to Europe and beyond to experience their history they in turn come here to experience ours.

It creates jobs, puts money into the economy and importantly creates awareness of who we are on the world stage…and how often and long we have been there, something regularly forgotten.

It’s both an educational tool for our young and a way for our seniors to continue to contribute…Education in the humanities, science, technology and the trades and our seniors continue to contribute by passing on the skills and knowledge they have earned while working in a social atmosphere with the young and their peers.

What our history is not…

Some say we don’t have a history…
Even though we are a young City, Province, Country in comparison to the Old World we have an extensive history…excluding our natural history. Our achievements decorate the world and have changed much of what has happened across many borders and both datelines.

It is an exciting history…of heroes, villains, achievements and failures of the creation of technologies and medical miracles at the same time as we have fed others and rescued many. We have influenced the world…we just forget to mention it.

Take the time to explore our history and yours…as a person, a community, a Province and a Country…it’s there, it’s yours, it is exciting and fun…it’s not a dry lecture, it’s real.

Tom

Komrade
23-08-2012, 10:12 AM
Great post! Hear hear!

AShetsen
23-08-2012, 10:42 AM
For the sake of argument a few counter-points should be made here. Keep in mind the truth is usually between two extremes.

Who are we? A city of perpetual incomers for one hundred and thirty years, except during those long periods when the economy turned sour and things went bust -- when many people left, for there were easier treasures to mine elsewhere. We are rootless, have been rootless, will almost certainly remain rootless.

What sort of foundation have we had? The kind that is rebuilt almost entirely every forty to fifty years. The Edmonton of 1880-1890 was erased by 1920. The Edmonton of 1920-1930 had vanished by 1980. The Edmonton of 1970-1980 is quickly being demolished today. Civic pride cannot exist where the people who prosper most have been here least, where each successive new generation that grows up sinks into apathy or leaves, where the few urban visionaries do nothing but complain and pine for how things are so much better anywhere, everywhere else. It is a foundation of muskeg overlying oil -- everything sinks and becomes eventually coated with tar.

What is Edmonton's true inspiration? Ever bigger trucks for ever smaller boyz with ever-bigger plastic nutz. Ever wider roads engineered to cut through neighborhood, park, green space. Ever-reduced number of scenic viewpoints, because, you know, the central business district must be made ever easier to access even as the number of destinations there shrinks and shrinks and shrinks.

What is our economic driver? Without sarcasm, the endless industrial belt that encircles the core and goes out, way out, to the distant outlying suburbs. Pollution and haze and steam that can only be cleared away on the windiest days. Have you people ever noticed how the buildings shine a few days a year in October when the autumn gales roll through? The rest of the time it's all the smog. And be thankful for the smog! Without it, you'd truly have no economy here to survive.

What is our education? Illiterate. Count the number of spelling errors in the simplest of e-mails by people you know -- people with good jobs in a society that has certain reasons to believe it is not technologically backward. Or can you really recognize error-free writing when you see it?

What our history is not: it is not the history of any kind of unified tribe. And any attempt at writing it that with the best of intentions paints a picture of a "Canadian", an "Albertan" or an "Edmontonian" (as though there were such animals) reduces the necessary complexity into simplistic propaganda. For there is and can be no such thing as a villain or a hero if there is no single tribe.

------

My conclusion, without excesses: please don't allow your inborn sentimentality to rear it head. Keep it suppressed, work hard, and history will take care of itself.

AShetsen
23-08-2012, 10:48 AM
What I wanted to say above is that Edmonton's history is a convoluted and difficult thing despite its shortness. And I really, really wanted to take exception with the conclusion that there are heroes and villains.

Is Hawrelak a hero or a villain? Why have we named Mayfair Park after him?

Difficult questions like these number in the hundreds. There is no linear progression here.

Thomas Hinderks
23-08-2012, 11:38 AM
What I wanted to say above is that Edmonton's history is a convoluted and difficult thing despite its shortness. And I really, really wanted to take exception with the conclusion that there are heroes and villains.

Is Hawrelak a hero or a villain? Why have we named Mayfair Park after him?

Difficult questions like these number in the hundreds. There is no linear progression here.

It may surprise you but I don't a take exception to any of your comments.

Much of history is convoluted, and not just ours, and as such it is subject to interpretation and perception.

As to heroes and villains...that is one of the places that interpretation and perception is most convoluted and subjective. Which is why I didn't give names to the heroes and villains.

I PERSONALLY do not believe that history should be interpreted at a detailed level...it should be presented so that the viewer makes their own decision as to what it tells them.

As you just pointed out in the above quote...some believe Hawrelak was a hero...others a villain or a crook, depending on their view and how it affected them.

To me that's a good thing as it has us thinking and learning from the different points of view.

In my highly biased personal opinion

Tom

AShetsen
23-08-2012, 12:16 PM
See, this is why history is perhaps best left to people like you, who are interested in it enough to find things out for themselves and realize for themselves the complexity it really has.

But anything presented to mass consumption is inevitably simplified and therefore selectively falsified.

I'm not being elitist, by the way. City archives, libraries, and the rest exist and must continue to exist and be open to the entire public.

But there's a reason museum guides are often called "interpreters". And what they present is an interpretation. But no interpretation should be presented. It should form over time by itself.

That's my problem with making history "accessible". It already is, to those who need it. But to those who don't, accessibility is kind of a well-meaning lie.

Thomas Hinderks
23-08-2012, 12:35 PM
And here Ashetsen is where we begin to disagree...

See, this is why history is perhaps best left to people like you, who are interested in it enough to find things out for themselves and realize for themselves the complexity it really has.

I absolutely oppose this idea...history belongs to everyone, it's theirs and should be presented and its viewing encouraged, shared.

The public will interpret the rest for themselves, much like Art, and come to their own conclusions. Because beyond the basics of recorded fact and numbers the rest of history is an individuals perception of the events and outcomes...they own their view of what it means.


But anything presented to mass consumption is inevitably simplified and therefore selectively falsified.

In some places I would agree, but in most cases I don't. Within many museums, including ours to a degree, we present information at 2-3 levels...basic large print or video...a more detailed display case/video/signage and lastly a Tour Guide (not an inter peter) that can give deeper detail. This gives the viewer a choice on how deep they wish to delve.

But most only want a basic story...
Fred Ziffel flew this kind of airplane and did this with it and thats why it's remarkable and important to Edmonton.


But there's a reason museum guides are often called "interpreters". And what they present is an interpretation. But no interpretation should be presented. It should form over time by itself.

Here we agree and we strive to do just that as many other museum's do.


That's my problem with making history "accessible". It already is, to those who need it. But to those who don't, accessibility is kind of a well-meaning lie.

But as I close this reply we again disagree...just because something is "available" doesn't mean it's accessible.

If you don't know it exists how would you know you need it, want it or interested in it?
If you don't know it exists how do you know how it has affected you?
If you don't know it exists how do you know could you be inspired or learn form it?

As usual I could go on ad nausea but I think I've made my point.

In my highly biased personal opinion

mnugent
23-08-2012, 03:27 PM
Good post and I agree with the gist of it. But I'd emphasize a difference between knowing/valuing history and defining oneself by it. I think that there are many cultures/individuals who overemphasize parts of history to establish their contemporary identity. For example, when living in Quebec this year I was surprised at how many young students in their 20s use examples of ancient conflicts with English Canada (Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Durham Report, Conscription Crisis, Quiet Revolution, etc.) to determine their own identity and that of the entire society. Resultantly, in my opinion, there's a certain modern xenophobia that seems to have created a more insular society there, which is based largely on historical interpretation.

On that note I kind of like how in general Edmonton's history doesn't possess the kind of tribal narratives that exclude or value different groups to that great of an extent. We're still young and have the opportunity to forum our identity.

Thomas Hinderks
23-08-2012, 04:02 PM
there's a certain modern xenophobia that seems to have created a more insular society there, which is based largely on historical interpretation.

Exactly my point about interpretation.

Thanks for the great example of why we need to present, not interpret.

Tom