ASSOCIATES (2009, July, v. 16, no. 1)

Feature

Importance of Local History

Shirley Mortara
Branch Assistant
Auburn Library
shirley.mortara@auburn.nsw.gov.au

Local history is the study of history in a geographically local context and it concentrates on the local environment. It incorporates cultural and social aspects of history. Oral history can also be incorporated into Local History. Local history is often documented by local historical societies or groups that form to preserve a local historic building or other historic site. Many works of local history are compiled by amateur historians working independently or archivists employed by various organizations. An important aspect of local history is the publication and cataloguing of documents preserved in local or national records which relate to particular areas. Artefacts’ of local history are often collected in local history museums, which may be housed in a historic house or other building. Individual historic sites are inherently local, although they may have national or world history importance as well. (1)

Although local historical societies keep track of the history in their local vicinity it is not always easily accessible for students or people interested in the area. This is where libraries and their collections come into being. One finds that in this era, local history is no longer the exclusive domain of a specialised Librarian (2). The position is being incorporated within another. The Librarian then holds a dual role and unfortunately local studies gets put on the back burner. In my library the position is incorporated into marketing as a result Local History receives very little attention.

Local history isn’t all sentimentalism and nostalgia, by any means. History as a whole is the benchmark by which we measure our progress as a people and make a course correction if necessary. It’s a crystal ball in which we can see the future by studying the past. Local history contains the mental geography of a town. It shows us the values and concerns that shaped our social and political environment. (3)

It has been said that he who controls the past controls the future. Our view of history shapes the way we view the present, and therefore it dictates what answers we offer for existing problems (4). My own ethos is that without knowledge of the local history of an area, it has lost a lot of its identity. A suburb and its culture does change over time, but to help plan for a future one needs to know the past and how it has shaped the suburb in the past and it helps in planning the future. Once the local history is lost, the suburb has lost its original Identity.


(1) Partridge, Jan. Local (or community) history in Australia: supporting cultural heritage, 1999. Online at http://archive.ifla.org/IV/ifla65/papers/157-91e.htm [Accessed May 09]

(2) ibid

(3) Prudy, Julia. Vital Importance Of Local History. Online at http://www.rherald.com/news/2009/0402/letters/l01.html [Accessed May 09]

(4) Crabtree, David. The importance of History. Online at http://www.mckenziestudycenter.org/society/articles/history.html [Accessed May 09]

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