On this day in history, on August 10th, 1846, the Smithsonian Institution was formed with the funds of Englishman James Smithson with the expressed purpose of “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”
The Smithsonian Institution still succeeds in that goal as they provide an opportunity to better understand our nation and our world to all who may wish it.
The anniversary of this seemingly trivial day in history, mixed with an abundance of footage on the news lately decrying our nation as immoral has led me to question why it actually does matter that we both learn and preserve our history.
There is a reason why so many people devote their lives to the study and the sharing of American history. They certainly wouldn’t see that endeavor as worthy of their time and dedication if our history was just a bunch of useless old stories!
Our history has immense value by nature of what it is – the story of the human experience that led us to where we are today, but as many people seem to have forgotten that basic truth, a simple rundown of why we should learn our history seems necessary.
History Unites Us and don’t we need that now more than ever? History, in essence, is the record of our shared experiences, of human lives and decisions that were made prior to our own. History gives us a knowledge of who we are as a people and how far we’ve come.
History is an Investment. It is an investment in you, an investment in society, and an investment in the future. Learning history will make you a more well rounded person, a better educated citizen and a purveyor of the past for the generations to come.
History is Useful. We all use history to one degree or another. Many of us, often unbeknownst to us at the time, use lessons from history to help us make decisions. History allows us to learn from the mistakes of others so we don’t fall into the same traps ourselves.
So in this season of unrest, perhaps it would best serve our time to look to the examples, both good and bad, in our history and learn from them what steps we should take to move forward.