By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, myWestman
NEEPAWA, Man. — Last weekend, I ended up spending a few hours digging through some family history. It was an interesting trip into photo albums, scrapbooks, envelopes of old pictures and newspaper clippings. Most were from well before my time and I wished I knew the answers to my questions; Who are all the people in the photos? Where and when was the photo taken? What was significant about the event? Without context, they were just interesting novelties.
The older images were a fascinating trip into an era that looked much different from our own, yet the people, or at least some of them, were familiar. I know I’m not the only one who enjoys stepping back in time — historical photos and the weekly “Looking Back” feature in the Neepawa Press seem to be extremely popular with our readers.
Philosopher George Santayana wrote the famous quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In an international climate of growing hatred and uncertainty, it’s hard not to think back to the end result of past times when fear and exclusion dominated people’s thoughts and actions.
History is all around us, and fortunately, this is the time of year when it’s most accessible.
In Manitoba, the May long weekend marks the official kick off to summer. Not only does that mean beaches and parks, it also means that our local museums are opening up for the summer. In each of our towns, and in private locations in between, there are buildings full of local artifacts. From replica cabins, to century-old agricultural implements, to preserved animals, our museums offer the chance to step into a past unlike our present lives.
Our museums give us the chance to better understand the challenges faced by those who lived here before us. To better understand how our communities coped with tragedies and opportunities, both local and international in scale. We can learn what the place we call home was like before the settlers arrived. We can learn what it was like to leave the only home you’ve known to homestead a farm halfway around the world in rural Manitoba. We can learn about the plants and animals that we share our land with. We can learn how our home communities answered the call to join one of the world wars.
There are close to 200 museums in Manitoba, a number which also includes art galleries and historic parks, each with a unique local flare or focus. There’s one devoted to nearly every aspect of our past.
The great thing is that unlike my mysterious family photos, curators and archivists can tell you the whole story. Regardless of your interest, there’s a story waiting to be told, you just have to step through the doors and listen.
We shouldn’t live in the past, and I certainly wouldn’t want to, but we shouldn’t forget it either. We should, however, always remember the lessons of the past, either to repeat success, or avoid failure.