Stories, Learning & Place

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Local community memory
   Are we in a dark age of community communications?

Kevin Harris wonders that modern society seems to lack “the sense of readily available common repositories for local community memory. It’s as if what we’re left with is no longer fulfilling the role of shoring-up everyday lives, of giving form to neighbourhood life.”

He mentions contributing factors, such as the automobile and the television, and laments the loss of a time when “communication between neighbours was lubricated by frequent interaction in the street, in the workplace, in the pub, at school, at the football match or at the church.”

This perspective suggests that we may be living in a ‘dark age’ of community communication, where at the moment we have neither the benefit of dense overlapping networks in our neighbourhoods, nor the potential of an online resource for the accretion of community memory.

I wonder how much the action of building those lost repositories of community memory might provide the animating motive for rebuilding family and community. The wild growth of interest in family genealogy suggests to me that living communities organized around reclaiming and understanding the past might be modern equivalents for old time barn raising and branding parties--work that draws people into shared, purposive relationship.

The History Begins at Home video from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education gives a glimpse of what kids can do. When you have a neighborhood’s history and its children involved, you have powerful forces for inviting engagement from others.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 12/26 at 10:43 PM
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©2004 Michael L. Umphrey
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