A few days ago, while enjoying some chocolate sandwich cookies and walking on the canal, Jeff Harris and I started a conversation about how much (or little) we ever talk about history content with local history groups. As the Local History Services department, you might expect that we’re the place to go to get your questions answered about which Indiana county sent the most solders to fight in the Civil War or why the town of Madison isn’t in Madison County. But the truth is, when someone asks those specific local history questions, we send them to the IHS reference desk.
What we do in LHS is talk about how local history is collected, preserved and shared with the public. We talk about engaging exhibit techniques, attracting new audiences to history organizations, fundraising for new roofs and archival boxes, and defending the value of local history. We may pick up fascinating details about a particular place on a site visit like how all of Starke County smelled lovely during the mint harvest and how important that industry was. But rarely do we purposefully talk about the history or a particular place when we are with groups from different sites.
Is that a mistake on our part? Would we engage more local history organization presidents and directors if we made a space for these local history stories to be told in our In Your Neighborhood meetings or during workshops? Would you, Dear Reader, be more likely to read our blog, subscribe to Communique Online or visit our LHS department webpage if we share interesting tidbits of local history? Would you like to hear about another town or county’s history?
We’re not sure (although Jeff leans one way and I lean the other). Can you help us decide? Tell us if you would like to hear more about the local history of others!