The history Museum Blog: This year, give your family the gift of history

By CONNIE NICE

Coordinator, History Museum of Hood River County

Every morning I stop by the post office on my way into work. It’s always fun to see what’s in the mail. Sometimes it’s the typical bills and advertisements. But once in a while we get photographs and artifacts in the mail.

Last week we received a nice bundle from a family whose roots go way back in our local history. They sent photographs and a four page write up about their family. They started thinking about doing this because of Cemetery Tales and their desire to be sure their family history was being preserved.

Wow! This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. The only reason that we have stories to share at Cemetery Tales is because someone at sometime somewhere cared enough to sit down and make sure the story was documented and then preserved. Many of the museums’ biographical family files go back to the early 1900s, but some were written during the 1980s when the Historical Society published the big green community history books. Most of these files were written by family members and include photographs from a variety of eras.

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So, that starts me thinking about our community now. About the families that moved into Hood River County in the ‘50s or ‘60s or later. They may have come initially to work on the farms and in the orchards. Or they may have come because of the extreme sports options here, but they stayed and put down roots and made this their home. Who are they? Who are you? What brought you and your family here? What defines who your family is in relation to hobbies, community involvement, occupation or personal beliefs?

With most communication today done in an instant with a few taps on our computer, phone or iPad, where are the lasting records of our life. We are all busy going here and going there, and doing this and that. But where and how are our stories being preserved? I’m just as guilty as every one of taking photos at holiday time and then not writing down the details. Or accepting my grandmothers’ doll from my aunt and not immediately writing down the story to go with it. There is no time like the present to start making an effort to document your family story before it’s too late ... before the people who know the stories are gone.

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So, here is my challenge to you! This year when your family gets together to eat the sacrificial turkey, or light the Hanukah candles or read the Christmas story... consider starting a new family tradition of sharing more than food or gifts. I challenge you to share your family stories and then make sure someone is available to document what is shared so it can then be saved for future generations. You can use a video camera, still camera, audio recorder or just plain old fashioned pencil and paper.

If you need suggestions or ideas on how to do this, give us a call. We’d love to help!

Once you have these stories gathered, please share a copy with us, so we can continue our mission of preserving generations of community family history. In my own immediate family, my husband and I have been writing a Christmas letter every year since we have been married – and that’s 35 years of Christmases!

Recently, I went back and started putting these in a scrap book and then adding photographs from our many boxes of images to match whatever we had written as the highlights for that year. Now it has become a tradition to go through this book together as a family to read the letters, look at the pictures and remember the past, celebrate the present and look forward to the future. I encourage you to make your family sharing story part of your year end holiday traditions.

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We are also turning the page on a new chapter of the story of The History Museum. We have taken what was started by our grandmothers and grandfathers and have embraced the mission of continuing to preserve that story for the next generation. So here’s what happening at The History Museum in the next few months.

We are almost done with the finishing details on the construction, but we are still a month away from completing the new exhibits. It is looking fantastic and we can’t wait to show the community all we have been able to accomplish with your donations and support. Hopefully with the community’s support and some grant opportunities, we will have this done before it’s time to pay our next rent payment in September of 2013. Your donation is always appreciated to help our ongoing efforts.

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We have just confirmed our events and programs for 2013 starting with a great winter program series in January and February. You can find information on our website. Click on the “Community Events” button on the left for a list.

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