It’s About Time column: Contribute to history — tell your story
It’s About Time
What’s in your attic? That’s not something most of us think about these days, because now we more typically store things in sheds or rent storage units. I got to thinking about “the nation’s attic,” otherwise known as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Years ago, I visited Washington on official business as an archaeologist with the BLM. In my pocket was a carefully wrapped artifact, thinking my colleagues in the national BLM office could identify it. They could not.
Next, I headed for the Smithsonian to see if their experts could help, forgetting one important thing: an appointment. I got no further than the front desk despite my attempts at persuasion or my special ID.
Not being one to take no for an answer, out of the corner of my eye is the one person who might be able to help me, the custodian. Approaching him with all the hospitality a Westerner can muster, I tell him my story.
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With a smile on his face he says, “Follow me and I’ll get you where you need to go.”
Doing so was quite an adventure. We wove our way through a maze of halls and up back-of-house stairs until we arrived at where the archaeologists were working.
My new friend walks right in and says,” There’s an important gentleman to see you. He came all the way from New Mexico.” And then he walked away.
Pulling the artifact from my pocket, I carefully unwrap a piece of stone and ask a half-dozen archaeologists gathering around me if they know what it is. My suspicion was the small square black colored material had been unevenly shaped into a flintstone for the flintlock of a rifle or pistol from the 1800s.
This is the way the mechanism works: the flint is sat into the hammer coming down on a piece of metal striking the pan igniting the powder. Flint is not found naturally in the southwest, so I wanted to source the flint, which was found at a Ute site.
Each expert turned the object over in his or her hand and passed it on to the next person. Finally, they gave up and handed it back to me, as stumped as I was.
But you don’t have to go to the Smithsonian to have a hand in history. There is always an opportunity to put your thoughts down on paper or in a mobile app, record an audio file or take a short video.
During a time like none of us have ever experienced, my question is: Why not record what’s happening in your life during this pandemic?
There is a good reason for asking. The Glenwood Springs Historical Society puts on the extremely popular ghost walk in the fall only because people who lived here before us left a record of their life, enabling us to portray that historic character’s life.
Without those pieces of the past we would not have anything to accurately relive their lives. Knowing that truth is stranger than fiction, our volunteers don’t have to embellish upon the actual records we preserve to tell their character’s story.
Your story is just as important to the future as the ghost walk characters’ stories we preserve in the archives.
I urge you check out glenwoodhistory.com and click the Contribute to History button. Then tell your story. The rest is literally…history.
Are you too bashful, and don’t want to share that much about your life? Then drag out those old boxes under the bed with all the family pictures from the past, or that dairy from your great-great grandpa.
Take a picture of your material with information on what you have, then send that to us at email@example.com. We’ll help you figure out if what you have is worth preserving, and how best to do that.
Oh and by the way, I never did find out anything else about that flint.
Bill Kight is the executive director of the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and writes a monthly column about history. He can be reached at 970-945-4448.
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