About The Author

David Grabitske

David Grabitske is the manager of outreach services at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“As they are for home-town residents everywhere, the local attractions always are just ‘there,’ with seemingly plenty of time to stop in.  Trips to distant attractions beckon, and we don’t discount the road trip’s enduring appeal.  But somehow time to visit the local sites never seems to materialize, and its always in the wake of such disasters that we finally learn what we’ve lost.  So here’s a plea to take advantage of your local historic sites, support them however you might—both volunteer help and financial aid are eagerly sought and gratefully accepted—and appreciate how truly fragile our collective past is before it’s too late.”
– James M. Tarbox,
History Channel Magazine,
regarding the institutions flooded in Cedar Rapids IA in 2008

Dustin Heckman, executive director of the Mower County Historical Society in Austin, sent the above quote. Does this capture a sense of why people seemingly overlook local history museums?

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4 Responses to Overlooking local museums

  1. Linda says:

    I think this is very true. We seldom take the time to be tourists in our own cities, even though people come from far away to see our sites. I recently wrote a post with similar thoughts about visiting sites while we have the chance.


  2. Alice Smuda says:

    I know for a fact this is true. When living in Baltimore, Md. (my home state) we saw very little of the sites, but we did travel to other states to visit them. Since moving to hubby’s hometown,I have seen and learned more about this county than where I was born. We volunteer at our local museum, as well as support and work there part-time, member of local genealogy society, church and Meals on Wheels. We are in our mid 70’s and although supposed to be retired, haven’t found the time to do so. I’m always trying to impress upon others how important it is to get involved, if only for an hour. You’re never too young or too old and any help is always welcomed.


  3. Jeff Jones says:

    I think this point is well stated. It’s only when friends come to town that I really take advantage of what my city has to offer.

    But this should also be a wake-up call to the institutions themselves to make sure they are present beyond their walls. If museums want to serve their local community, they shouldn’t just be a destination, they should engage the people around them every day.

    Maybe I’m not going to just walk in the door of that little local historical museum. But I am going to walk to the store or visit the park or attend the street festival. Meet me there and engage me.

    Setting up booths, bringing site interpreters into neighborhoods, even offering downloadable walking/driving tours could help locals learn even as they go about their daily lives.

    Just an idea. I’d love to know how groups are doing this already.


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