History News, Vol. 66, No. 4 (Autumn 2011), pp. 3-4.
In film and television the portrayal of community histories of New York looms very large in our hip-hop early 21st century consciousness. It is a fascinating place because it is at once a global city and a city of a thousand very locally-orientated communities. Kammen asks if local historical organisations have a part to play in that dynamic. Often the problem for local history groups is that too many volunteers are unaware that “Historians are not antiquarians; we are not simply mired in what can be known about other eras”, as Kammen states. Here is where local history meets social value:
History is defined by many as an interest in the past, but it has a modern, contemporary use, too. History is a way of assessing change of place, of looking at people’s experiences now and their memories of what has happened, of what they have lived through and what events have meant to them. Those of us in public history provide a way to remember and help people discern meaning in their own times, even as that time changes because of accretion or cataclysm. We have a role to play as a community’s attic, as its psychiatrist, and its dramatist, putting on the historical stage what people once lived through and that which we encounter in our own times. That’s not a bad role for any one of us to play.
Those ideas are as applicable for local historians in Brisbane, or any other Queensland town, as it is for New York.