Connecting your business to town pride

History Smiths

I recently appeared on my town’s cable TV access station, on a very popular show that “everyone” watches. My subject? How we “do” history outside of the classroom in my community, and how we – individuals AND businesses – can support our local history.

I happen to live in an extraordinarily historic town, and a top tourist destination in New England. On the TV show, I cited numerous examples of how history exists all around us in the public arena – from museums, historic houses, parks, and memorials, to house plaques, historic markers, the names of streets, and statues of historical figures. But none of this happens by magic, nor is it all maintained and preserved by magic, and that’s where we can all play a role.

Ways to support local history

The host of the show and I both encouraged our viewers to get out and walk, take a tour, take a trolley ride, visit sites, and “play tourist” in their town. Truly, for very little or no cost, residents in a historical community can plan a thoroughly enjoyable “stay-cation” to avoid spending money on gas, hotel, and meals. Businesses can give employees an afternoon off to explore, or sponsor a private walking tour for their staff.

So the first way we can all support our local history is simply by learning and enjoying it ourselves. (And if you have kids, please bring them with you! Nothing turns young people on to history like seeing the sites where events took place, or interacting with talented demonstrators, reenactors, and tour guides.)

You can also:

• Join the nonprofit museums and historic house museums in your town (most are membership organizations).

• Promote these sites to your friends, family, and co-workers.

• Volunteer for them.

• Donate. • Find out what, exactly, they need support for. Can you help underwrite a lecture series? Help get research done? Pay for a local history book project? Fund their collections digitization – which they are all supposed to be doing, but it’s prohibitively expensive?

• Offer 10% off something for customers who join the museum.

• Use their historical photographs at your place of business for publications or displays.

Other ways to support local history

• Support a historical event by volunteering, donating, promoting it to family, friends, or within your business – and also go!
• Support preservation projects – businesses, especially, can be local heroes if they help save an important building or preserve a historical park.

• Support history IN the classroom – history education is getting cut and cut, how can you help? Back a school project? Fund a new curriculum or visits from reenactors? Start a history scholarship or a history teaching award?

• Back public history projects – a mural, a statue, artwork for a playground, the creation of a new walking tour

– these projects last for a long time and involve considerable publicity.

Your business and town pride

If your business is located in a historical community, you KNOW your customers love their local history. For a small investment on your part, you can easily win people over. You can attract customers and their loyalty, and you can secure your reputation in your community as a business that knows and cares about its local history.

Tap in to town pride, and see how your efforts come back to you!