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The new year

As the holiday season ends, often these have been days of memories. It is that time when stories of the past come to the fore just before the focus turns to the next year. Whether 2018 has been a wonderful year, an average year, or a year best forgotten, it too will take a place in each of our personal lore.

For myself, a dramatic change in life’s plans has shaped my future vision. It has been a challenging, often painful, change, and yet there have been unexpected positive outcomes. I have delved into my own genealogy to give context for past responses to these types of years. What dramatic turns of events have created the family that I know? What comes out of discovering the different people’s lives making up my family tree?

It also has been a year of renewed interest in different types of architectural aspects of Main Street. My fascination with histories of those primarily unremarkable structures that have shaped the societal narrative have created rabbit holes to explore and published outcomes of those explorations. Some of the trends have been introduced through research done for various clients. I hadn’t considered the development of creameries during the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries until finding information for a client’s project. Writing a short article for Minnesota History led to my awareness of the history of asylum and hospital architecture shaping the treatment of those labeled mentally ill. Without publications at the time capturing the role of often unmentioned aspects of communities and social history like architects and design, the story of how the present has been shaped would lose depth.

For many people, family and personal histories don’t seem all that unique or notable. Yet all stories and places where we live have a particular variation of a themes. Memories of life on one’s family farm become insights into the role of family farms in current America. The ways family members became American after immigrating to the U.S. describe various values. Stories about the rise and fall of a great-great-great grandfather’s fortune capture perspectives about the American Dream that might not usually get told.

As we move into the new year, consider what parts of your past might be interesting to know. What stories need to be recorded as we all move farther into the 21st century? What insight into a region or city or ethnic experience will give you context for your own past? To use an apt cliché I have used in other posts, there’s no better time than the present for bringing history to life.

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