Paul Snyder, Archivist
On March 29, 1944 Garret Bolkenstien participated in a radio broadcast out of London, England. The exiled Minister for Education, Art, and Science for the Netherlands, Bolkenstien urged citizens in the Nazi occupied region to preserve diaries, letters, and other ordinary communications that an archive might be assembled. This archive would serve posterity as a testament to life in the Netherlands under Nazi control.
A diarist since receiving one for her thirteenth birthday, Bolkenstien’s radio broadcast was a catalyst for young Anne Frank. She began to write in earnest with the idea that, perhaps, others might someday read her work. Rewriting her previous entries, editing and adjusting the dialogue to make it more understandable to future readers, she was able to continue her work for less than six months until her family was arrested and deported to concentration camps in August of that year. Anne would die in Burgen-Belsen about eight months later.
I can tell you as an archivist how valuable firsthand accounts are when assembling the story of the people and events of an era. Soldier diaries provide the fine tuning needed to flesh out the sometimes analytical recitation of events that chronicle our collective war experience. Letters and journals of Northville’s founding families have allowed us to understand the experience of how our community grew. Newspapers and government records from those times are invaluable sources of information, but it’s the personal correspondence and journals that give us the understanding about how folks felt as their friends, relatives, or neighbors handled the events that have shaped our community.
In the scope of history, this Covid-19 pandemic will heavily influence the future of our community, our country, and our world. How we behave, what we think, and what we experience will have its place when history is written. I encourage you to record your experiences in any way that is comfortable. Keep a journal, take pictures and videos, post a blog, or create a piece of art. It all adds value to the story.
When Mill Race Village offices reopen, I will welcome contributions in an effort to document Northville during this crisis. A collection will be made and added to the Northville Historical Society archive as a chronicle of these times.