Colleen lives in Minnesota and is a regular reader of this newsletter. Last month’s polka reference in the Culture and Connections prompted her to write to me about her journey of exploring her heritage. (Have I mentioned how much I love interaction with donors, friends, and members?) She posed a few thoughts and questions that get to the heart of why cultural museums and libraries exist, and why people at different stages of their life are moved to explore their family history specifically, and cultural heritage generally.
She wrote, “I also try to understand what is most important about heritage. Is it the outward things that people can readily see and understand, or does it go much deeper than that? Or maybe it is both; the visible things are what people readily relate to and maybe that helps people delve deeper.”
I believe that Colleen has hit the nail on the head.
Visible things can range from clothing to facial features, art on display, or hair color, and so much more; they become part of our outward identity, by birth or by choice. Others see and make connections. When I attended the Houston Slavic Heritage Festival I saw food, facial features, and fun that reminded me of the meals, people, and activities of my Polish roots. I am sure that when I attend the Scottish Highlands event in Texas in May, I will see the same for the other half of my heritage. The visible cues make me curious, whereby I sought more. A few years ago, I went to Mississippi to learn more about my father’s side of my heritage, and I learned much about the quirks, traits, and values that I discovered we share. And many of those were cited in books I read that trace certain attitudinal tendencies back hundreds of years.
When it comes to heritage, does something from inside us provoke us to learn and discover, or does something external inspire our curiosity and hunger for information? Yes.
Share your stories with me! Tell me about your festival experiences. Share with me about your family. I would love to hear more. Contact me at DMcInnis@NCSML.org.