Preservation & Community Story
Primary author: Jerianne Davis
Telling the story of how your town got started can really help foster a sense of belonging and shared identity within a community.
What is in this tool?
The following is designed to help assess first your community and then your library work toward building resident belonging through a preservation pathway, and identify realistic ways to improve.
Who are you? Where did your family come from? Who and how did this town get started? Why is it still here?
Finding, preserving, and connecting with an area’s cultural heritage, can be extremely important in making people–even newcomers–feel a part of something. Preservation takes on various forms depending on the community and is defined by action taken by residents or institutions to maintain shared identity and community narrative. Self-determination of future paths can be tied closely to the ability to shape the narrative of both original purpose (why people started living together here) and the present purpose (why we are still living here). Conversely, failure of a town to create shared identity and preserve its past can lead to negative self-perceptions and low cooperation.
One of the biggest findings in this research was just how important a sense of belonging was to each community member. Our culture and heritage is so important because it defines our identity and belonging to a particular group of people or place. This sense of belonging creates unity within your community and because it is so valuable should not be lost. When done right, celebrations are inclusive of newcomers, providing them opportunities to take part and join in the shared identity, even if their ancestry is from elsewhere.
If no other organization has already taken on this project; then it becomes the responsibility and privilege of the library to spearhead this project. Remember, the work you put in now can and will be appreciated for generations to come.
Want to read more about building a sense of belonging in your community? Try the tools: Pathways to Belonging: Contribution, Pathways to Belonging: To Be Seen and Feel Known, and Creating Community-Building Events.