A good question for the residents of Aberdeen is “What kind of town do you want to live in?”
It’s an even better question for the mayor and city council. What makes a community? What binds a city together, gives a sense of purpose, or makes a person feel like they belong? What shows community pride? Where do we teach our children about our town and its important, if colorful, past? What message do we want to send to visitors passing through, or newcomers to the area?
Lots of things can fit as an element or part of the answer to these questions and none alone are the complete answer. I personally believe a town’s history is a key element toward creating a place where people want to live. A collective history brings us together and transcends differences. It reminds us that many came before us who made sacrifices, overcame hardships, gave of themselves, dreamed, worked and died to build what we have today.
They overcame what made them different to hold hands and come together to create a good community. So many, many people who simply wanted to make a place for their families to live and prosper. They wanted a community. And they have stories to tell us. Memories to share. Lessons to teach.
Most of that is sitting in a warehouse where no one can access it, learn from it or enjoy it.
I don’t know that I would choose to live in a place that thought so little of its past that it would refuse to have a museum. I am not at all sure that a town who thinks so little of the value of its memories and of those who came before them is thinking clearly.
I am very certain that it speaks poorly of the character of a community if they have the funds in hand to build that museum and embrace their history but they choose not to do that.
The city of Aberdeen owned the armory because the Swanson family wanted to help a museum become a reality. That is a fact. Those millions are only in the city’s coffers because of that dream. You can dance around the arguments of the language of the donation or legal obligations all you want. It is an insult to the generosity of the Swansons and an insult to the dozens of hardworking people who made that dream come true to fail to fund rebuilding a museum.
It is an insult to every person who has volunteered in any capacity to make Aberdeen a better place because it shows a complete lack of appreciation for their efforts. The Aberdeen Museum of History was built and operated by dedicated volunteers. City funding was minimal, particularly compared to the outstanding facility those volunteers gifted to their community.
We should honor that phenomenal gift and the decades of enjoyment and pride it brought to Aberdeen. We should honor those volunteers. The city should act with integrity and designate adequate funds to replace our museum.
What kind of town do you want to live in? Contact your council person and tell them. Call the mayor and tell him his priorities do not match those of the community.
Anthony Airhart is a resident of Aberdeen.