“Why?”

Post written by Chris Brusatte, Exhibit Manager at Go For Broke National Education Center


“Why?” That is the question that people often ask archivists.  “Why do you spend so much time and effort preserving dusty old things from the past?”  “Why do you preserve thousands of hours of tape of people talking about things that happened seventy years ago?”

For those not involved in the project, it may indeed seem like an odd waste of time.  But we do it so that stories are not lost, history is not forgotten, and important lessons from the past do not vanish as one generation gives way to another.  We do it so that the actual voices of those who witnessed history are preserved for posterity.

In the late 1930s, the US Government recorded the oral histories of the last surviving African American slaves.  With this important effort, students in 2015 and beyond can listen to the voices of the actual men and women who were unjustly enslaved in the 1860s.  It gives me chills just thinking about this.  It was the efforts of a small team of government historians and archivists who made this possible, and because of them, this first-hand history will always be available to students, scholars, and the general public.

THAT is why we do it.  It is sad to think of it, but pretty soon all of the Nisei soldiers of World War II will be gone.   But because of our organization’s efforts, they will always live on.  In our oral history videos, they will always speak directly to future generations about the struggles that they overcame and the courage that they showed.  Their history, which is our history, will forever be preserved and celebrated.

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