Breaking the Path Documented History
In today’s society people always have a need for more. They need to know more, they need to see more, experience more, and feel more. Traditional practices of documenting history and defining what history is cannot keep up with the needs of today’s society. In order to reach out to the general population the ways of putting history out there had to be redefined. The essays we’ve read in Letting Go? Did just that. They educate us on what new trends are used to reach the public today, and also redefine what history really is through web and digital media, community-based programming, and through new trends in oral history and contemporary art. However these new methods bring a more personal first-hand spin on history, thus the question stands is what we’re documenting as history really count as history or is it just a memory?
History is defined as a series of past events connected with someone or something. Someone’s memory is a memory of one’s own history, if one chooses to share that memory then it becomes a communal memory in which can be called history. With today’s technology there is no limit to what we can store and access. Before digital means history obviously had been limited to important events and people due to lack of space and accessibility. But now we can document what we want. Any type of memory is something we can learn from, and if we can learn from it then its making history. I feel that in order to connect history with memory what we choose to display has to be used in ways that we can identify patterns and or relate with. In order to separate memory from being used to construct identity we have to think of how the memory makes a history. It’s all about how one wants to look at it.
Take Benjamin Filene’s “Make Yourself at Home — Welcoming Voice in Open House: If These Walls Could Talk,” in Letting Go? The exhibit he spoke of focuses on a single home built in 1888 in St Paul Minnesota in which has no historical significance. Through the makings of this exhibit it is made evident that every building has a history, and much can be obtained from it. The rooms of the exhibit represent different time periods of occupation in that area as well as a variety of ethnicities. The message this send is “that not only do ordinary people make history, they can be historians” (Filene, 150)
I feel history doesn’t even have to be something that takes place over a period of time. History is always in the making, it is what is happening now. Every little thing we do has an effect on what the future holds, no matter how big or small we are changing the order things. History in the making is documented in Steve Zeitlin work City of Memory in which he discusses in “Where Are the Best Stories? Where is My Story?–Participation and Curation in a New Media Age.” City of memory creates a series of interlocking memories, chronicling New York City’s inner life, it’s a way for people to rediscover the city through the history of others. We learn can also learn through the experiences of others. I find a lot of inspiration from a page I came across on Facebook called “Humans of New York” which is similar to City of memory, be relates more directly to photographic means, giving short stories and snip bits into the lives of strangers in New York City through the lens of Brandon Stanton. What I learn from these people is real, what they say is real. It wasn’t an over analyzed thought or experience, it is exactly as what they say it is, and what it means to them. For me that is history to learn from. The most recent one I saw was of a black male who took off to watch a movie with his friends instead of waiting for his father to pick him up. The last words exchanged between him and father was his father saying that his son doesn’t care about him. Later the next day his father was murdered. This point in this boy’s history reminds me to never end with hateful words and feelings with someone you care about.
However that being said how do individuals, communities, and nations decide what “history” is worth exploring and interpreting? This all plays back in to society’s need for more. To know more see more and feel more. With digital means there really isn’t a limit to what “history” is worth exploring. We can document just about anything and everything. And with that individuals, communities, and nations can personally pick what best interest them. The role in which we choose to preserve the past is limitless. If it means something to someone then it’s worth documenting. Just like in the “Open House” exhibition which started off with a house that had no purpose, we were able to find history worth documenting.
Zeitlin, Steve. “Where Are the Best Stories? Where Is My Story? Participation and Curation in a New Media Age.” Letting Go?: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World. Ed. Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski. Philadelphia: The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, 2011. Print.
Filene, Benjamin. “Make Yourself at Home – Welcoming Voices in Open House: If These Walls Could Talk.” Letting Go?: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World. Ed. Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski. Philadelphia: The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, 2011. Print.