Everyday History Makers

by Carol Lyon

What people come to mind when someone says the phrase “history maker?” George Washington? Harriet Tudman? Madame Curry? Mahatma Ghandi? Martin Luther King, Jr.? Usually, when people use the term “history maker,” they are referring to someone who did something notable and who are remembered for generations after their death. But while serving local families as a Doorstep Digital Archivist, I have gained a new perspective on who the true history makers are.

Sure, extreme risk-takers and go-getters play a role in constructing history, just like electricity plays a role in powering a light bulb. But electricity is not the maker of a light bulb. Rather, a light bulb is made by a person who collects glass and wire and other materials and assembles them appropriately. Likewise, the true makers of history are those who collect items that symbolize the past: photos, film, letters, legal documents, antiques…basically anything that can be used as evidence of what the past was like. Then, the history makers connect these  tokens like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and the result is a portrait of the past: history as we know it.

History makers are usually and anonymous group of people who feel a strong responsibility to remember and value the past. For instance, I have no idea who had the foresight to save the letters written between John and Abigail Adams in the Eighteenth Century. But whoever he or she was, I congratulate them and thank them because much of our current understanding of American history during the Revolution comes from these letters. By the same token, I would like to congratulate and thank the families that bring their photo albums to Doorstep Digital to be scanned and saved digitally. While scanning photo albums, I have had the pleasure of seeing image after image of evidence of the past: a parade for some of the first astronauts, families posing by their Model-T cars, an old western-style grocery store, a young man receiving one of the first desktop computer models for Christmas in the 1980s. All of these images participate in telling the story of history. In fact, if no one saved images or documents like these, we would have no reliable evidence to construct history with. So, again, I thank the history makers of our current day that invite Doorstep Digital to partner with them in preserving the past and making history for future generations.