City’s past at Historical Society is lackluster

Commentary

On a recent trip to Dunkirk, I visited the Dunkirk Historical Society on Washington Avenue. It was my first time inside the building in a decade. The experience left me disappointed.

I am an 81-year-old great-grandmother who grew up in Dunkirk, attended the Dunkirk schools and Dunkirk churches.

My parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and one set of great-great-grandparents called Dunkirk their home. They are buried there. So the heritage and history of Dunkirk is important to me, something I hope to share with my descendants.

I spent time looking for that history and heritage inside the Historical Society building. I found a few framed pictures listing Dunkirk former residents and several photo albums of Dunkirk pre-urban renewal.

I was amazed at the amount of railroad memorabilia commemorating the Brooks (ALCO) Plant. But the deeply rich history of Dunkirk wasn’t on display.

Instead I saw Civil War and Victorian artifacts found in most museums, in most cities.

I wanted to see an illustrated timeline of settlement in Dunkirk, from the early 1800s to the present. I wanted to see examples of our ethnic heritage; the Irish, the Germans, the Polish, the Italians, the Latinos.

I wanted to see the faces of people who lived in Dunkirk during the 19th and 20th centuries. I wanted to see a display of Dunkirk schools and Dunkirk churches over the years.

I wanted to experience “Downtown” and the parks and the beaches. I wanted to study a display showing the history of the fishing industry, the steel industry, and the canneries.

My generation is fading away. Our memories will be gone. The Dunkirk Historical Society must make Dunkirk’s meaningful history visible for future generations.

My thanks to the dedicated and helpful volunteers I met during my visit.

Judy Barnes Parks is a Hershey, Pa., resident.

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