Why history matters: 'It's about you, and us'

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  • Source: Collection of the late Barbara Morgiewicz Finding a way to use of available resources to provide income in winter is not a new dilemma for farmers. In days gone by, Black Dirt families harvested ice to sell to the Pine Island Creamery.

  • Source: Illustration from Ruttenber and Clark's History of Orange County Bellvale's Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck fought her whole life against the inequality of women. Her dress reform newspaper, "The Sybil," argued that the road to suffrage began with sensible "bloomer" type clothing that allowed freedom of movement. In many cultures today this is still an issue.

November is New York State History month.

So what?

Many people look at our local history as a quaint hobby.

I often get asked “what does it matter to me?”

My answer: “It matters because it’s all about US. Our community. Our identity. Our decisions today about how we conduct our lives.”

Did you know that Warwick has seven groups devoted to preservation and promotion of the history of our Town? Yep. Seven. (Warwick Historical Society, Florida Historical Society, New Milford Historical Society, Drowned Lands Historical Society, Friends of Hathorn House Historical Society, Greenwood Lake Historical Society and the Seward Restoration Committee.)

There’s also a digital repository with thousands of items of local historical articles, photos, documents, and media files - Warwick Valley Heritage - which is provided and supported by the Albert Wisner Public Library. You can access it by visiting albertwisnerlibrary.org, and click on “Local History.”

Why so many organizations and resources?

Because there’s plenty of history to go around.

And because history matters.

Consider these points made by bunkhistory.org about the relevance of history to our everyday lives— including what we hear or don’t hear on the news.

• “History is not something that happened once and then is past, but rather asserts itself in the present and future in unpredictable ways.

• "History is not one national story or set of facts to memorize, but rather all the evidence we have about everything that has happened up to this minute.

• "The past is being remade constantly, partly because we discover new patterns within it, and partly because we ask new questions of it.

• "Something that happened 200 years ago can send more energy through the system of memory, power, and contestation than something that happened ten years ago.

• "Much of what is important in history moves beneath the surface of events. Things that happened without obvious consequence in their own time can help shape lives for generations that follow.

• "Knowing what actually happened, based on evidence and scholarship, is necessary for meaningful judgment. The ways we remember the past, on the other hand, are often as powerful as what actually happened.”

Here’s an example. The current exhibit on Women’s Suffrage at the Warwick Historical Society. Votes. Property rights. Clothing that’s practical. Then look at some cultures around the world, and even in Orange County today, where women can’t go out in public without covering their heads or drive. Great discussion starter with your kids about values and attitudes.

Visit, contribute or get involved in your local historical societies and explore the compelling stories that rise out of the landscape around you while doing the daily round.

It’s about you, and us.

Sue Gardner

Deputy Historian, Town of Warwick

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