Or, as is popular in the Daily News, recently; the ramblings of old memories bring out the sentimental feelings of the ‘Good Old Days’; all taken from the perspective of first-hand accounts.
All this historical mush reminds me of a movie recently by a Hollywood producer. The heroes and heroines are caught in an urban center in which they are not all knowing (a satisfying but not realistic movie assumption)and their actions are more often than not make no significant difference. (Another of those satisfying but not realistic movie-
assumptions) against some dangerous enemy that is destroying the city of which they have no knowledge of what or who it is. This type of device has never really caught on at the local cinema. You end up feeling as frustrated as the characters and you get a nasty headache like looking at the world through a long telescope. You come out of the theater asking yourself, “What’s going on?” Why doesn’t the movie fill in the blanks?” “How does it all end?”
Too much like real life. Why watch it when we’re already living it?
So what am I talking about here? I want to hear and see more about,
All the cool history about Newburyport.
“Cool” as in exciting, romantic, significant and of National importance. Things that make the ear tingle, challenge the mind, and aspire others to match these historical events with even greater achievements.
And what do we do to satisfy that thirst? We send in the Historians. Yeah, these droll ‘experts’ who get excited over chronicling the every day experience of some every day person in some ordinary place in the Newburies!
I’ve got to stop here. Just thinking about it gives me a headache! I’m leaving off to fetch a couple of aspirin……
……we have huge piles of data located in three locations: the archives at the Newburyport Public Library, the archives at the Cushing House and the archives at the Custom House. On top of that are the hidden records in the hundreds of historic houses in the region.
And what do we do? We have to learn about Uncle Ernie’s daily life? (No offense to those who actually have an Uncle Ernie. He was probably a fine fellow! But what significance is his life to mine, or the state or the region or to the world?)
What benefit will we acquire learning about Uncle Ernie? What significant achievement or event occurred because of his existence? What can we learn from him that will challenge or inspire us? And how did his actions change the world for the better or for the worse? And what makes Uncle Ernie amongst all the peoples of the world so damn important that we need to learn about him?
Michael Mroz at the Custom House is not an historian; he is charged with running a museum; but he has the instincts that have been so lacking for a long time here in Newburyport.
“What makes our city so special and so unique?
Our visitors can feel it in the air. Our eyes can give us hints. Our senses ring it out but without an answer.
He has been working with the curator, Kevin MacDonald; to excite, inspire and reveal our past history and he has just started the process. The recent First Friday Friends Social might initially get people to come for the food and the wine; but the real excitement comes from the exciting talks as one historical event of Newburyport is revealed month by month. And on top of that draw are the maritime exhibits that bring out history that excites the hearer.
But the Custom House is about our maritime history. What about the other events and people not connected directly to the sea? The Cushing House has amazing artifacts, biographies and records that need to be mined like digging for diamonds, emeralds and gold. Susan Edwards, the new Executive Director is now sitting on a pile of records that need to be thoroughly examined and revealed – to show that all these artifacts are significant and important to the city, to the Commonwealth and to the Nation.
The Custom House hasn’t even scratched the surface choosing to focus on one or two partitions of our long history; there is far more to be revealed! They’ve just gotten started. And what about the Cushing House – will they sit on these exciting sources and fail to reveal them?
As an amateur, I have dug around in these archives and have found eye-popping, nationally-significant events and people. Can you imagine what will be revealed when professionals take the focus away from the drudgery of endless history, to reveal to all how Newburyport is one beautiful, powerful and unique place!
I can’t wait to hear! And I bet you can’t wait either!
Support our museums as they pursue this important process!
“People want to learn from history; that’s what we do as a society,”
-Jay Williamson, former curator at the Museum of Old Newbury