Usually I share a general update on the Museum but this month I want to share something more personal. The picture above is that of my great-grandfather celebrating his 95th birthday last month. But what you cannot see is the silent disease that is quickly stealing the memories and stories he has always shared with me. He is now suffering from the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease and just a few weeks ago we made the decision to place him on hospice care.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because he reminds me of the important role the Museum plays in collecting these stories before they are gone. As a boy, I had the fortune of living with and being raised by my great-grandparents and I remember that amazing stories they would share with me about life in Wabash County.
He worked for G.M. Diehl Machine Works for much of us career and he tells stories about the war efforts and how they impacted local manufacturers. He reminisces about the work he did with his brother to paint cars in the garage still connected to his home. He shares stories about how his home, now very much in the city limits, and how it was once surrounded by fields as they raised chickens in their backyard. As we make repairs to his home, he explains how it had no indoor plumbing when they bought it and how he built on and expanded their simple home to meet the needs of our family.
These stories seem insignificant and it is so easy to take these stories for granted until they no longer can be shared. They paint a picture of the hard work and rich history of our community and the men and women that have played various roles to make sure we all have the opportunities we do have today. It is not just the stories but also the pictures and items that when paired with them share a strong sense about our past.
Too often the Museum receives a box of photos from an estate with no labels, no markings, just a box of photos. As we look through them we are left to guess who these individuals are and what they are doing. Their stories are suddenly forgotten for future generations. We might receive wood-working tools or household items that have been discarded and again these items often lose their stories. The stories of the man or woman who used this item, often wearing the paint off the handle, to build our community. The Museum wants to collect the whole story.
As I enjoy my final memories with my great-grandfather I ask that you remember the power these stories have. If you are of the generation to share these stories, take time to share your stories with young minds, I promise they want to hear them. Secondly, take time to listen. Do not let your busy life let you take for granted these stories that will be entrusted with you to share with future generations.
With the technology of today there are a variety of ways to collect stories, digitize photos, and exchange ideas. The Museum continues to improve our infrastructure to collect these mediums and ensure they are preserved for future researchers and most importantly to share with our guests and the thousands of young minds that visit each year who want to hear these incredible pieces of our history.
As I continue my work at the Museum (or the Sears and Roebuck store as my great-grandfather believes) I will continue my commitment to listening to and collecting these stories.