My mother’s family traces its roots through Louisiana, up to Nova Scotia and across to France. Of course, there are a lot of stops across the history of my family, and a couple diversions into other cultures and backgrounds. We have family heirlooms and photos from here and there. That is my history, the story of life in my family. It’s hard sometimes to remember all of the pieces of the tree that branch out and create other trees in the grove. And although the heirlooms have passed down from family member to family member and now to me- these items having meaning, not just to me, but to my grove and the places those trees were planted.
This is not a new thought, but rather something important to step back and think about from time to time: our connectedness is not unique. Our histories are expansive and they intersect with other people, places, stories and cultures. With this in mind, we’ve made it a point to look at collections, where appropriate, and put items back on the map. Just because you see an item in a certain museum does not mean it’s story belongs solely to that place or the person it previously belonged to.
We have worked with our Partners at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to curate the experience of A World-Wide Story in the Next Exit History App. This project takes items from their collection, some on display and some in storage, and puts them back on the map. Showcasing the stories that connect places and people- a shared history showcased in map form. Connecting stories of hardship and hard work, exclusion and inclusion, slavery and freedom, famous figures and common men and women. These stories come from all over the globe and yet belong to each person too.
We hope that individuals can see a sliver of their past reaching out and connecting to their tree, their roots and their grove. That museums, artifacts and collections can speak to a broad collective of people and communities. That by making images and information accessible through a digital platform that the story and history can be shared, adding to the story and encouraging you to explore where your roots lead, to find the extent of your grove. Travel, learn, share and help to shape the story being told. We believe stories can be powerful and that they are important- they are worth sharing.