|Allie & Shari. |
Allie fell asleep mid-play
Tributes and reminiscences at my friend's funeral revealed common threads; a strong faith, a love of reading, a passion for music, a desire for community (especially if it involved food), an eye and voice for social justice, a knack for jokes and being silly, a talent for seeing the uniqueness in children and nurturing their individuality, and the ability to fall asleep on anyone's couch at any time.
My friend started not one, but two literacy programs, learned to play many instruments and even resorted to building her own 15th century instrument that none of us had ever heard of when she felt she needed a bigger challenge. She was energized by learning, volunteered widely, and loved to help people. She traveled and was part of musicals and festivals and lived her life unapologetically and to the fullest.
I left this funeral feeling a mixture of inspiration and regret. Listening to the tributes and accomplishments of my friend was impressive to say the least. Her legacy is far flung, it is varied, and she will be remembered and missed for a very long time. People who never met her are benefiting from what she did. I wish we had visited more often, especially after she fell ill. I wish my daughter could have had more time with our friend, as she is too young to hold on to the memories of their time together. I was really looking forward to their days of music lessons. I miss her and I miss what could have been.
|Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium|
As I pondered all of this, the word legacy came to mind again and again. We often hear of the collective legacy of our veterans; of the rights and freedoms we are guaranteed because of their service. More and more we are hearing personal stories, as we collectively realize that time is running short for some of them to be shared in veterans' own words. As museums, if our mission is to honour and celebrate our community's past, then we must be doing this in a personal way, at the individual level. Unfortunately, even though we are engaging in oral history and other projects to capture these personal stories, they don't always get linked to databases or websites or other standard resources. They are separate, and can be lost or left behind on shelves or in files.
In an age when distractions are rampant and information is often twisted or made up, pursuing the truth and sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of human experiences is a noble task for museums. We can and should be bearing witness to personal stories and lives lived, but this information has to be integrated into our sharing tools (databases and websites) in a more permanent way for this information to be disseminated and make an impact. In contemplating Remembrance Day, we should investigate and honour the legacy of our veterans, following as many threads as we can find.
|Uncle Grenville and his fiancee|
Following these threads of questions and information will enable us to weave richer collections records and demonstrate legacies in our communities; to reveal connections that aren't obvious.
The questions and stories are seemingly endless. But what better way to honour people than to document and share their far flung and varied legacies. In doing so, we will remember them for a very long time to come.
|Grandpa and his buddies, Burma 1945|