Do Your Part: What will You Leave Behind for the World to Remember?

Chapter nine of “Nearby History” takes the reader into yet another aspect of local history. This time landscapes and buildings were the subject. How do these monuments help a historian? These types of things show what has changed over time, what were the trends in housing architecture and style, what about street sizes, bottle shapes, and popular brand names? The things that people leave behind “carry the messages about the hopes, circumstances, and traditions” (183) of those who left them. This chapter was really insightful as to just how important buildings, or “functional entities in the landscape” (183) are and tied in really nicely with the “biography of a house” assignment we have been finishing up, as well as, potentially, helping with “dead men tell no tales”. The main problem with this chapter is what has been a problem in the past, pictures and big block text examples break up the middle of a sentence. Placement of these items is crucial, it is one thing to break up a paragraph if need be, but when a sentence is interrupted in the middle, some readers are more likely to skip over that information completely to finish the sentence.

Main Street” by Lucy M. Salmon has a similar idea to that portrayed in the “Nearby History” chapter. Salmon speaks about how the history of a city can be seen along Main Street. Main Street is where history happens. The earth beneath the pavement could be as old as time itself, the rocks being near to the oldest geological formations on Earth. The streets’ construction and names can show how the times have changed. Are the streets narrow or wide, how long are the blocks, what are the roads made of, concrete or something else? What are the street names, are they more modern, or do they imply the past, are they more leaning toward locations and nature, like water or elm, or do they represent people, like Washington or Monroe? Still more questions can be asked such as, what kind of buildings still exist, are they commercial, or more “mom and pop?” All of these things can help the viewer see the history of a town, the representation of the times, all along one street, and as Salmon points out this type of street, usually named Main Street, typically exists in every city. “Ancient history has been brought down to main street through the spirit and substance of myth, legend, and tradition.” (2) So go take a look and see what you can find.

robert smalls
Robert Smalls, the slave who sailed himself to freedom. Source
The Memory Palace podcast from this week, “The Wheel,” was about a slave, Robert Smalls. Should Smalls take the boat, “The Planter,” and ride into freedom? Smalls took the boat, along with a number of co-conspirators, and their families (sixteen people in all), journeyed past two forts, multiple men, and got away, making their way to freedom forever, at Buford Island. Smalls would go on to become a sailor for the Union, working against the Confederacy with the knowledge he had gained being a slave. He was vital to the war effort and even met Abraham Lincoln, some say he even influenced Lincoln into writing the Emancipation Proclamation. After the war Smalls worked hard during reconstruction. He served in congress, built a school, and much more, all to do his part. Because of his actions, he is remembered, even today, for all that he did.

Gravestone Symbolism” is a list of different symbols that may be found on gravestones and what they mean, ranging from animals, body parts, and others images. This website will be incredibly useful for interpreting headstones during the cemetery visit for our final project. As for now, it is an interesting source for describing what people what to be remembered for when they die.

lillies gravestone
Lilies on a gravestone are said to represent “Majesty, innocence, purity, and resurrection. Often associated with the Virgin Mary and resurrection. Often used on women’s graves. The use of lilies at funerals symbolizes the restored innocence of the soul at death.” Source

2 thoughts on “Do Your Part: What will You Leave Behind for the World to Remember?

  1. I wasn’t a fan of how the narrator for The Wheel kept bringing up “if he would just take the wheel” at first. It felt overdone, but after listening to the whole podcast I can appreciate why he did it. As you pointed out, Robert Smalls had quite the life after getting into Union territory, and was an important part of the war effort. All of that is due to him seizing the opportunity of “taking the wheel”, and it helps show the importance of bold action in a time of war.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lauren,
    Great overview of Lucy Salmon and Nearby History! I also really enjoyed the podcast this week. Listening to so many podcasts this quarter has made me very aware of the way that these public historians went about choosing and delivering their material! It kinda makes me want to start a podcast of my own!

    I am so excited to decode all of the gravestone symbols! I just went to the cemetery I’m writing about yesterday and was taken off guard by how many graves had symbols! There were so many more than I expected, and I was prepared to see quite a few!


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