'SAVE OUR STORIES': Using Local History, Local Stories to Revitalize Communities

A community’s past is filled with wonderful history, amazing architecture, urban legends or some amazing characters.   Yet, it is slowly being forgotten. The community may be struggling to compete to survive. The next step may be a real ghost town unless something is down.

But what to do? How to turn a community into a tourist destination instead of signpost on the way somewhere else?  A community with a viable population, a working knowledge of its history, and some people willing to contribute to the renaissance of their town can see amazing things happen…..

Local history is made of local stories….. what’s the story of your community?

Local, regional, or state libraries may contain many pages dedicated to telling the story of your community. Old newspapers, school yearbooks, and even printed bricks on streets, buildings, and sidewalks can contribute information in fleshing out local history. Federal census records, court house deeds, and other public records can give dates and names to the citizens.

Add to these collections by hosting an oral history day at the local library, church , or school. Sponsor a work day to cut grass, weed, and do repairs at local cemeteries, historic markers, veterans memorials, or notable buildings in town.

Every fall for one hundred years your town has celebrated the first crop of rutabagas planted by pioneer farmer, Iama Farmer. Put it on the map! Bring in musical groups, sponsor art contests, storytelling festivals, and athletic events to coincide.

No money? There are always struggling musicians, bands, storytellers, artists, and many others who would love to be part of the show for the exposure they would receive. Others, might just be willing to donate their skills or talents for a good cause!  One of the cheapest ways to generate goodwill among artisans (and have them speak well of your event) is FREE publicity and lots of it.  Even if little known, bandy their name about as if a major star was coming!

Gather the stories, do research and record the unique experiences of the community in print, on video or other format for sharing.

Groups in a community to involve:
  • Schools
  • Churches
  • Civic groups & clubs
  • Libraries
  • City government
  • Businesses

What Can Be Done -
  • Festivals, craft shows, cook offs
  • Tours, re-enactments, historic plays
  • Musicals, cruise ins, competitions
  • Workshops, seminars, and trade shows

Special Note About Paranormal History
Do not overlook the economic potential of local legends about hauntings or other mysterious goings on.  Some may not believe in it - but others do or at least like the feeling they are walking on the wild side.  Here is an excellent place for storytellers, workshops, tours, conferences, festivals to garner interest in your community by people who are inclinded to believe, interested, or looking for something different to do.  Add an educational, scientific, or folkloric element as a balance.  Encourage volunteer opps for maintaining the local cemetery, historic location, or other site related to the stories or tales.

Marilyn A. Hudson
Norman, Oklahoma

[Permission is granted to reproduce with proper citation]

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