History: The story of who we are
“History museums are trying to find ways to remain relevant to diverse audiences and to accomplish this on resources they simply do not have.” Forty percent of the nation’s museums of all types are history-related.
I discovered on Yahoo News a short news alert titled “US History Museums Struggle to Update Exhibits” (11/6/11). I immediately thought of the Henderson County Heritage Museum.
The article identifies the struggle that museums are having due to the impact of shrinking budgets and “the diminishing interest in the nation’s past.”
On Aug. 10, The Times-News ran an editorial titled “Education’s ‘Soft’ Sciences Get Left Behind.” The editorial expresses concern that students are losing “a deeper understanding and appreciation of the events that built our nation and our world.”
As a teacher, I read this with concern: “Many view history as borrowing facts about people who are long dead and places that no longer exist.”
The editorial asserts that history should be viewed as “the story of who we are.” I agree.
I have quoted from the T-N editorial before, and I always isolate the statements: “History helps us to find the foundation on which we can build our future. If we don’t know where we’ve been, it’s awfully hard to know where we should be going.”
On Dec. 7 each year, we pause to recall Pearl Harbor, a time of great peril for this country. We remember the sacrifices made by “silent heroes” of World War II.
History is more than just a timeline of events. It seeks meanings enacted in events.
Who are these “silent heroes”? How can we recognize them?
He is Jack C. Jones, who on Sunday, April 1, 1943, took part in the largest amphibious operation of the war in the Pacific.
He is Ray Anderson, who was in Hiroshima six weeks after the atomic bomb dropped and later suffered the effects of radiation, battling cancer for 24 years.
He is Garland Rhodes, Air Corps, who remembers the guy who ditched his plane and was the only one to survive. He stayed on a raft for 26 days in the China Sea before his rescue.
He is George “Buck” Lyda, a fifth-generation Lyda of Edneyville, who on his second day in France met Gen. George Patton. “He got out of his jeep and walked up to me and said, ‘I’m George Patton,’ and I said, ‘I’m Sgt. George A. Lyda, 808 Tank Destroyer Battalion.’ ” He is Bob Cheadle, who developed malaria while on Guadalcanal. “A good friend practically dragged me down to sickbay.”
And there is Nurse Lola E. Drake of the Class of ’43, who may have been the first Dana High School female to achieve the rank of captain in the United States Air Force. One of her duty stations was at the hospital at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C.
Or he is Harold “Bo” Phillips, who served his country in the Pacific at the end of the war in Siberia on Russia’s far eastern front, supporting America’s “weather warriors,” providing meteorological data and forecasts for American armed forces.
And he is George Justice, Navy, 5th Fleet, who survived the destruction of the USS Bush. Thomas Dillard of Mills River, Justice’s buddy, is one of the men who died April 6, 1945, aboard the USS Bush.
Or he is Marine Col. Carroll Strider whose initiation into battle was in November 1943 at Tarawa — one of the war’s most savage battles — who after 30 years of service concluded, “The true heroes aren’t here. They’re still in other places; they didn’t come back.”
Shortly after WWII, a bronze plaque was donated to Dana School. The durable plaque survived the great fire of the early ’70s that destroyed and leveled the school. After a demolition crew recovered it, the plaque was given to Carolyn Pettet Brown, class of ’57, one of the crew members, because one of the names on the plaque was that of her Uncle Lowell Love.
The plaque is bordered with olive branches and has the following engraving: “In memory of those who paid the supreme sacrifice in World War II — Lowell E. Love, Clarence Duncan, Bud Staton, Dickie King, Glen Gibbs, James Gibbs, Glover Jackson and Jack Burgess.”
The T-N headline (11/20/13) reads: “TDA, County Find Solution to Heritage Museum Funding Fight.”
The lead paragraph reads: “The Tourism Development Authority and county officials have reached a tentative agreement on how to avoid further tensions over funding the Henderson County Heritage Museum.”
The gateway entrance to Hendersonville reads: “Historic Downtown Hendersonville.” Perhaps the familiar greeting needs to be examined.
The Henderson County Heritage Museum can provide the magic, but, without “stories of the heart,” the events can be too easily forgotten. You cannot simply state that you are a history museum or town and somehow expect magic. Each visitor must become actively involved (physically and/or intellectually) in the experience. My friend Jeannie Gooch sent me a quotation from the writings of Eduardo Galeano: “The time that was continues to tick inside the time that is.”