Monday, June 13, 2011

History for the Ages

With all focus on new-fangled technology in libraries these days, sometimes it’s easy to forget that a library is still a unique repository, a place where the collective memory of a community can reside in perpetuity, and where researchers can explore the records of our past. During the past two weeks, this fact was reinforced with me when I participated in four different projects which delved into Dover history. Over the course of my many years at the library, I have learned a lot about our city’s evolution since its founding in 1623 and am often asked historical questions about Dover. Most of these inquiries can be solved by books in our Historical Room, but these events were a bit different.
· Last Tuesday I was filmed for a Dover High School AP History class documentary. I was interviewed about Dover history by one student while a second student ran the video camera. Lots of fun and the kids had good questions and were very engaging.
· On Wednesday, I visited with about two dozen residents at Maple Suites, a nearby senior living community. Most of them are not from Dover originally, so I brought along a Show ‘N Tell style exhibit of old Dover photographs and told them exciting (I hope!) stories about the events portrayed. They seemed to enjoy it and at least no one fell asleep!
· On Thursday, I conducted two walking tours of downtown Dover for about 80 Woodman Park 3rd graders (2 groups of 40). The kids loved hearing about various fires, floods, hangings, and other disasters that had happened in Dover. We had beautiful weather for the tours and I got my exercise walking around Dover twice before noon!
· This Wednesday I participated in a soon-to-be-shown segment about Dover for WMUR Channel 9’s “NH Chronicle” television show. The Chamber of Commerce got me involved in this one and we filmed in the Cocheco Courtyard, talking about the history of the mills and why they’ve been influential in making Dover into the community it is today. Did you know that the first strike by women in the US happened right there in December 1828? You go, Dover mill girls!
While I talked about a lot of similar topics during each instance, what intrigued me the most was how I had to tailor my message to four different age groups (8 to 88 years old) and to fit four different settings (my office, a community room, on the streets with a big group, and facing a large camera while speaking off the cuff because I didn’t know the questions in advance!) The stories which intrigued the kids were not necessarily the ones which the seniors enjoyed; and talking to a camera, you don’t really know who your audience will be on the other end! Regardless, the point of all these outreach efforts is to promote the plethora of local historical information at the library and make people aware that while we have mobile apps, online databases, eBooks and Wi-Fi, we also still concentrate on our important role as a valuable historical repository for our city.

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