No, I’m not talking about the Earth. Rather, the world globe given to my father upon his graduation from high school. That gift from my grandparents is among three generations of family keepsakes that my brother and I hold. It was our expectation that we would pass at least some to the fourth generation. They’re not interested.
They’re also not alone. Curiosity about the past among younger Americans is on the decline. “Only 20.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 visited a historic site in 2012—down about 8 percentage points from just 10 years earlier.” Other survey data shows that “Americans’ knowledge of civics and history is pitiful.”1 Similarly, interest in antiques and “old stuff” has declined sharply in recent years.2 A preference for minimalism and mobility leaves the belongings of past generations behind.
I’m not suggesting that we should be tradition-bound, save everything, and resist all change. I much prefer aspects of society and life today, compared to the world of my grandparents. Yet, I am who I am, in part, because of those who came before. One of the ways I connect with them is by holding objects they held, reading passages they wrote, walking where they walked, and by trying to understand the choices they made—and in turn better understand myself.
In what ways will next generations connect to their heritage?
Who will care for the globe?
Those people, our own forbears, had lived and loved, experienced the stresses of earning their livelihood, bringing up their children, and coping with the pressures of their day. They had passed down to us our family name, our position in life, our life-blood itself; and we had forgotten all about them!Terrick V.H. FitzHugh 3
All photos and text by Bruce Jacobson: this work is licensed under Creative Commons 4.0 License—Attribution-ShareAlike.
- ”American’s Declining Interest in History Hitting Museums Like Colonial Wlliamsburg Hard” at The Federalist (https://thefederalist.com/2017/08/22/americans-declining-interest-history-hitting-colonial-williamsburg-hard-not-one/ : accessed 22 Aug 2019).
- A web search produces dozens of articles about the dying antique and collectables market.
- Terrick V. H. FitzHugh, How to Write A Family History (Alphabooks Ltd., Sherborne, Dorset, England: 1988), p. 7.