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  • 1.  Nagging question

    Posted 11-06-2018 04:35 PM
    Ive been wrestling with the question: Whats so important about history?
    It's been bothering me so much that Im thinking of doing a session at our regional museum association convention. Im not sure the question is worded correctly yet.

    Any answers, suggestions, thoughts are appreciated.

    Alan Ransenberg
    Lead Alchemist
    The Alchemy of Design
    7556 NE Stanton St
    Portland OR
    503 381 2676

  • 2.  RE: Nagging question

    Posted 11-07-2018 06:11 AM
    There are a lot of good and valid answers to your question. See, for example, Lynn Hunt's book, HISTORY WHY IT MATTERS (2018). But for me, certainly at this moment in our national history, the most compelling reason to preserve, study, and interpret history is that it can help to foster a sense of agency--the conviction that each of us has the ability to influence, to shape, our families, neighborhoods, communities, and even the political economy of our country. In short, that all of us are actors in history. This concept is central to "next practice" in all kinds of museum. For examples, see the concluding chapter of my 2016 book, INTERPRETING AMERICAN JEWISH HISTORY AT MUSEUMS AND HISTORIC SITES or check out the burgeoning historic sites that commemorate the civil rights movement.


    Avi Decter, Managing Partner, History Now

    Avi Decter
    Managing Partner, History Now
    Philadelphia, PA

  • 3.  RE: Nagging question

    Posted 11-08-2018 02:59 PM

    History is extremely important, as it is a great teacher about human nature, which remains the same through all ages. There is also the old saying that "those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it" in other words, we especially need to learn from the regrettable aspects of history, the way we (hopefully) learn from our mistakes. This is why, in my opinion, I don't think it is good to remove the memory of all historical figures who prove to be imperfect,  non heroic human beings. We need to preserve history, without whitewashing it, and as much as possible tell all sides of the story.

    Then, there is the fact that if we lose all connection to our past, we lose our roots and end up having no culture.

    Valeria Kondratiev

    Photoarchive assistant

    Frick Art Reference Libray

  • 4.  RE: Nagging question

    Posted 11-07-2018 07:07 AM
    Take a look at the History Relevance campaign, which is set up to answer exactly this question. --Steve

    Steven Lubar

    author, Inside the Lost Museum: Curating, Past and Present

  • 5.  RE: Nagging question

    Posted 11-07-2018 09:01 AM
    Mr. Lubar is on point.  My collection of PDFs from include: "HistoryRelevanceValueStatement," "Value of History in Policy Making 2015," & from the National Council on Public History "History Relevance & Media NCPH News 2017 03."

    Paul C. Thistle
    Director/Curator (retired)
    Stratford ON

  • 6.  RE: Nagging question

    Posted 11-07-2018 10:39 AM



    Visit the website It includes a value of history statement endorsed by numerous history museums and other organizations, including the AAM and the AASLH. Hope it helps!




    Chris Godbold

    Chief Curator of Collections

    Fort Bend History Association

    p. 281.343.0218 x237 | f. 281.342.3782





  • 7.  RE: Nagging question

    Posted 11-07-2018 12:29 PM
    Do it!

    All of us who work in or for the public history/history museum world IMHO should ask ourselves "Why is (the study of) history important? Why does it matter to me? What impact does it have on my audience, community, world?"

    It gets to the heart of our purpose in the work that we do. It helps us become more intentional in our thinking and planning. See the work of Randi Korn & her talented colleagues at And, it makes us better communicators, interpreters, stewards, fundraisers, and especially, contributors to our communities.

    So, do it.

    And, when you do get people asking why history matters, don't stop with the first, second, or third answer either. Keep digging until everyone finds some core beliefs and values that they can call their own.

    If you haven't already, look at the work of the History Relevance Campaign ( And, go on Twitter where people who work in public history, museums, colleges and universities, arts organizations, you name it, are demonstrating the value of history every day in discussions ranging from Confederate monuments to immigration policy.

    You're not alone in having that nagging feeling, Alan. Good luck.

    Dean Krimmel, Interpretive & Exhibition Planning
    Creative Museum Services/Qm2; 410-746-8350

  • 8.  RE: Nagging question

    Posted 11-07-2018 02:14 PM
    Hi Alan,

    I have to say, this is a very complex question. It's similar to asking "what makes human kind so unique?"  Because people are different, varied and unique, so are the reasons as to why History is important. 

    Because history is, in truth, a social construct, it is completely fluid, and applied to a myriad of disciplines, if not all, but also finds pertinence in our personal lives. 

    Nothing exists without a history, or context that helps us to understand everything we learn. From history tours that educate students, to the study of psychology, history can be looked at both qualitatively and quantitatively. 

    I could most certainly go on about this for many hours, but in a nutshell, everything we know, how we understand and learn-- it is all comprised of history. And that is why it is so important.

    I hope this provided some use!


    Chloe Joyner
    Production Assistant
    Smithsonian Institution
    Washington DC

  • 9.  RE: Nagging question

    Posted 11-12-2018 03:16 PM
    thank you all for your responses, they all helped

    alan ransenberg
    planner/ designer/ owner
    the alchemy of design
    portland or