Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why We Need A New Deal Museum (part 1 of 10): They preserved our history, let's preserve theirs

(These formerly jobless Americans, seen here in a Civil Works Administration historical survey group, helped preserve the history of the Battle of Antietam. Photo taken circa 1933-34, and provided courtesy of the National Park Service.)

(The Civilian Conservation Corps rebuilt the walls of Fort Frederick in Washington County, Maryland. The fort has history related to the French & Indian War, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War, and is now a National Historic Landmark. Photo by Brent McKee.)

(WPA workers uncovered lost history, in archives all across the nation. This Associated Press article appeared in the Baltimore Sun Newspaper, January 31, 1937, p. 2. The image is a scan from ProQuest Archiver. Only part of the scan/article is used here, and it is being used for educational purposes only.)

There are many great organizations working very hard to preserve various aspects of New Deal history: The National New Deal Preservation Association, the Living New Deal, the FDR Presidential Library & Museum, the Frances Perkins Center, the New Deal Network, and more. But, amazingly, a large physical museum, dedicated solely to the policies, programs, and artifacts of the New Deal, does not exist. I say "amazing" because the New Deal was arguably the biggest work & construction program in human history (using the word "work" to include not only "bricks & mortar" projects, but also things like the planting of trees, the creation of art, the collection of history, the distribution of food, etc.).

Workers in the New Deal programs, usually Americans who had suffered through devastating unemployment, preserved American history in a multitude of ways. They restored historic structures, surveyed historic buildings, collected oral histories of former slaves, created over 1,200 new historic monuments & markers, performed archaeological digs, and much, much more.

So, here's a question: Since New Deal laborers worked so hard preserving our American history, wouldn't it be respectful to preserve their history in a New Deal museum?

No comments:

Post a Comment