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The Next Generation of Local History

Have you ever asked, “How do we get young people involved in our local history organization?”

Many have asked us this question in Local History Services. More and more it seems that young people are not interested in history. But is that the case?

I was reading an article recently called “Millennials, Nostalgia, and Urban Preservation: Why We Clamor for the Past We Never Had.” We love the old architecture, we like anything vintage, and we give our selfies an old-time feel with filters on Instagram. While we love to see historic buildings preserved, we do not support historic preservation monetarily any more than other generations. The article ends by saying that our affinity for stuff of old is simply nostalgia, grasped as a way to deal with fear, rather than a real sense of preservation.

Architecture Love

This may seem discouraging, but that is not the whole story of my generation. Millennials actually view the donation of their time, money and skills equally. I personally knew a group of young professionals and college students in Cleveland who, when faced with the destruction of a historic building for a parking lot, took action. They may not have spent their money on this effort, but they offered their time, and continue to meet to discuss and stand up for historic preservation in downtown Cleveland. 

So what does our attachment to old buildings mean for local history groups? Well, local history organizations have an “in” with Millennials – a fondness for the past. The questions that should follow must be: How can we turn people with just a fondness for the past into people dedicating time to preserving and sharing local history? How do we turn nostalgia into real appreciation and commitment?

We are looking to answer some of those questions with our new workshop: Generation Next: Strategies for Recruiting, Using and Retaining Younger Volunteers. We will look at more specific trends and get you introduced to the younger generations: how they operate, what they are interested in, and how to get them hooked on local history. For more information and to register, see our workshops page. We hope to see you there!