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Opinion: We have the heritage, let’s share it with others

Community editorial panel with Leslie Childs

Published on July 28, 2017

More good news for Amherst and area! Looks like we have a much larger group interested in our built heritage than we thought.

Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia’s photo show, Witnesses to a New Nation, arrived just in time for Canada Day and made a two-week stop at Dayle’s Grand Market recently. Along with it, Amherst Heritage Trust (AHT) presented 130 photos of our own heritage houses, both large and small, -- the initial stage of their Heritage House Inventory Project.
The 150 photos taken across Nova Scotia for the provincial travelling exhibition showed places/buildings in use in 1867 (Confederation) while the Amherst shots highlighted local places dating from the Busy Amherst Era (1915) right back to the 1770s.
What a terrific turnout we had! Clearly, people love these heritage places.
The exhibition’s Guest Book shows that 723 visitors viewed the photos. Of these, 98 indicated they were from more than 100 km away. All 10 provinces were represented along with 5 US states, and an amazing 10 people identified themselves as having dropped in from Japan, England, El Salvador, Netherlands, and France. Everyone was excited by what they saw and very impressed with Amherst’s “heritage house collection”.
The 130 Amherst photos prompted visitors to add dates and stories to 104 of them. That’s a great beginning. The file will grow continuously and be updated regularly. Everyone is invited to contribute. Communities are about people working together to achieve a common goal AHT’s is to see that Amherst’s rich past is recorded and valued, and that Amherst will have information in place to develop these unique resources as a foundation for its future growth and prosperity.
People “from away” want to see and know about our heritage places; the 98 visitors who discovered our show, even without any advertising, didn’t just pass through the show. They stayed, looked, and asked some pretty in-depth questions. Several then went out walking. Local people came, discovered new things, and then recommended the show to friends or returned with others in tow.
Amherst’s built heritage has value. for everyone, both locals and travellers.
What are the places in your life that matter most to you? Maybe it’s the park where you got engaged, but more likely it’s a place like a ball diamond, an ice cream store, a favourite restaurant, or even a quiet corner of your childhood neighbourhood, that’s filled with your personal stories and memories.
Now, play along with me. Close your eyes and see your special place; then make a special effort to smell, touch, hear and taste them in your mind’s eye as they were then … and as they are now. Any differences? What do you feel? Serenity, comfort, sadness, or nostalgia?
Why do you remember them and how do they connect you to your friends, your community, and the life you live now?
Remembering is an activity “landmarked” by sensory impressions that can make time and distance disappear. The past becomes the present, if only briefly. When memory is tied to a real place in real time, the linkages get even stronger. In fact, this “connectedness” can be triggered by just a similarity to places you know well.
Abram Maslow, an American psychologist, said that the most powerful need humans feel, after basic survival items like food and shelter, is a strong sense of belonging.
Visiting old places speaks to that need to belong and connects us to people and feelings from our past – including ourselves.
Our local heritage is a resource that can do just that, and it’s marketed easily and cheaply. We have the heritage; let’s start inviting people to share it: for a day, an overnight, or even a week. Three groups of visitors said that they were staying locally so they could travel the county and the marsh and see it all.
To contribute to Amherst’s Heritage House Inventory, send your facts/stories through our Facebook page, Amherst Heritage Trust, or via email to sharonjones1248@gmail.com.

Leslie Childs is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel.