Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Few Thoughts on Last Week's DC Community Heritage Project Symposium

Insightful commentary on last week's event from Humanities Council Grants and Special Projects Intern, Sneha Sharma

Washington D.C. residents don’t always have all that much in common with one another. They come from different cultures, backgrounds, and hold a diverse array of professions. Some residents have lived here their whole lives and others just moved in. Often, one of the only things these residents hold in common with one another is the history that surrounds them. Washington D.C. has a rich and extensive history that visually reveals itself through the mix of old and new architecture and the plethora of museums. In order to find a collective sense of community, residents ideally should understand this shared history. 

Not only did the panelists at last week's DC Community Heritage Project Symposium address these abstract ideas, they also discussed the importance of architecture and urban planning in relation to community. Throughout history, racism and rising property prices displaced residents and disrupted any shared sense of community that previously existed. In the present society, residents’ common knowledge of these past events can strengthen their understanding of the community and of each other. Since all the panelists possess strong community ties, they ably discussed how their interactions and work within the community improved when residents identified with their community’s history. Through their statements during the discussion, these panelists all reinforced the idea that a community’s history is always relevant to the present residents whether these residents have been here for five or fifty years. 

After the discussion, I realized that these speakers would never have come together if not for the city’s history that they are all so invested in. This demonstrates the strong sense of community that history can help create. The panel itself was well attended and was followed by a Q and A session where some attendees voiced their personal experiences and opinions in relation to the discussion topic.

(Sharma is a student at The University of California Riverside and is currently studying at the University of California DC Center)

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