Sunday, May 31, 2015

Revisiting history

The weather in Urbana was blustery and wet as we waited in the restaurant, and there were 4 more hours to go. We decided to skip visiting our old stomping grounds and just drive straight home.

And, after all, the not-very-old apartment of 30 years ago has been filled with probably at least a dozen other families in the meantime; the Baskin Robbins nearby is gone; the church moved to a place with more space (and there are houses there now). The apartment won't look at all the same: if not maintained it will be a dump, and if maintained most stuff will have been replaced/remodeled. I still have some shelving I built to fit under the window there.

A place may be home for a while, but you leave and then it's somebody else's turn. You can start the story over and read the beginning, or look at the pictures in a scrapbook and see where you used to live, but that's somebody else's place now.

That might seem an ironic conclusion for a trip that included history in Jamestown and Williamsburg and Monticello and Gettysburg, but Jamestown was somewhere else, Williamsburg was radically modified, and Gettysburg was then and now filled with private homes and farms. When the first colonists died, their successors revised things to suit or decided the whole business was ill-conceived and re-started elsewhere. We wanted to see one "snapshot" of a place, but that's just one snapshot of many.

I don't mind at all that the reconstruction of Jamestown isn't on the site. It makes archaeology easier, of course, but since it isn't real (the urgencies and bustle are irretrievable), being exactly there doesn't matter so much.

In fact, sometimes it is better. I'd rather have a re-enactment at Oberammergau than at Golgotha.

The place of an event can be important, but usually not enough to seize the meaning from all other uses of the place.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

The last time I visited Williamsburg I was jarred by how much the area outside the college and restored area had changed. The usual old campus and CW stuff was very much as it had been 40 years ago - which is the point - but was consequently not very interesting. The Wren Building? It's just a place for English classes in my memory. The history was important to me then ("Thomas Jefferson walked up these very stairs") because it connected a young man to a past and a legacy. Much less so now. I filled up on it then.