History – Don’t run away

I’ve been thinking about history this weekend.  The point I’ll try to make is that history isn’t just big events, but even more so it is a combined accumulation of tiny events.  Events that are happening all around us all the time.

I worked in the Peace River Centennial Museum for a year.  In certain ways the history of Peace River – of all of Alberta – is very short.  In many ways it is long.  The museum contained fossils.  The valley itself is a visible testament to the last ice age.  And long before we started recording happenings for the Peace River archives there were communities living in the valley.  Living, dying, loving.

But in the sense of recorded history, Fort Fork was founded in 1792 and Alexander Mackenzie was there in 1793.  So in the history of the province the history of Peace River is longer than most.  And most of it is recorded at the Peace River Museum.

Alexander Mackenzie’s search for a route across Canada to the Pacific is big history in the valley.  But the museum also contains artifacts about early doctors like Dr. Mary Percy Jackson, early aviators like Dr. William Greene and of course the town mascot, Henry Fuller ’12 foot’ Davis, a prospector who settled in the valley.

But that is not all.  Records of who served on the local welcome wagon, the people who ran the ferry, and the construction of bridges to span the local valleys and bring the rail through town.  Records of floods, and droughts and celebrations.  The artifacts come from the homes of people who lived in the valley.  Thousands and thousands of photographs showing every kind of moment – show life as the people living in the valley lived it.

I’ve been watching Downton Abbey lately.  My reward to finishing the blog will be the watch the final episode.  That family is rocked by the sinking of the Titanic, The Great War and the Spanish Flu.  It makes for great drama, but even that show is as much about the actions of every person – their jealousies and their sacrifices.  It is fictional of course, but shows how people can be changed by both the great and the small.

The birth of a child of the death of a loved one.  These may have greater effects on our lives than wars or depressions – they quite likely do.  It is hard to look at our own lives and think them grand enough to call history.  And the biggest archives and museums will show the great events in detail, but they all also capture the small events that show how people lived.  And how we lived and why we lived form the backbone of history.

Our everyday, from dawn to dusk to the next dawn.


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