Don’t discard history even if it seems unimportant or unpleasant

Posted 13 July 2021 at 9:00 pm


It can’t just be me that keeps seeing comments on social media and articles in the news about erasing our history. I am saddened by the fact that people have put all of our country’s history in one silo. That silo is one of shame. Things happened throughout history and history was recorded. How would we know what happened before us if it had not?

We learn from it and hope that we don’t repeat some of it. Laws are made to avoid some of it happening again and to help the people who were wronged. Women can vote, slaves were freed, countries went to war to defend a certain way of life which allowed people to exist as human beings – not Jews or slaves for example.

I feel like this is trickling down to our little Orleans County in some ways. I am a local town historian and have been for 15 years. In the beginning, when I asked people to share pictures or stories, they often didn’t bother. I just kept right on asking. Why you say? Because it is our history and after a generation has died off then how will we ever know?

I am fortunate enough to say that many people in the county know that I am a historian. I get invited to speak at schools and other historical societies frequently. I am always sharing what I have or what I learn with others because that is what I am supposed to do.

Every now and again people will send me items through the mail or bring me boxes of items that they don’t know what to do with but could not bring themselves to throw away. I TAKE IT ALL! I look at everything and make piles for other historians in other towns if it pertains to them. It sometimes takes a lot of work but let’s face it, we are not in it for the pay!

I was made aware of a situation where a decades-long historian passed away and her records were in her home. The town did the right thing and went and collected an entire room of historical items. Books, pictures you name it.

What happened after that makes me angry. Someone spent a good portion of their lifetime collecting these items and saving them. An individual was appointed to the job and then proceeded to throw away books, photos and newspapers in the dumpster.

Thank God for the town clerk who went into the dumpster and retrieved as much as she could from underneath garbage and maggots. The town should be so lucky to have an individual who cares this much. It is now being dried out and hopefully saved for future generations.

This town clerk like my own is the records officer for the town and totally understands the significance of some records. While some records are not nearly as important as others historically, she knows to ask me (the historian) before she gets rid of anything due to its future historical value.

The gratitude of a high school student doing research or a distant family member being shown an old photograph or story about their ancestor is priceless!

Melissa Ierlan

Town of Clarendon Historian