In our new world, where physical distancing and new ways of social connections are the order of the day, it is our shared past that continues to connect us all.
Our cultural heritage matters now more than ever.
Our cultural heritage is a gift from the past. It comes to us in different forms, each valued by our ancestors. Sometimes cultural heritage is a tangible object such as a work of art, a book, a statue, or a local place. Sometimes it is embodied in the architectural views of our landscape or in spots that have remained untouched for generations. Often it is a tradition, skill, folklore, or other collective knowledge passed down from generation to generation. Regardless of the form it takes, our cultural heritage both defines and connects us. And it lasts because each generation values it and preserves it for the next generation.
The preservation of our Gloucester heritage is something that we take seriously at Maritime Gloucester. Our mission is to preserve our historic waterfront and the traditions of the community that created it. We do this so that people can come and learn about their past. We do this so future generations can experience and understand who we are and what we value. We choose to be an educational organization because knowledge is vital to the process of preservation. In preservation circles, this concept is called the Heritage Cycle. It says that understanding a historic place
enables people to value it, which then causes people to care for it. That care allows more people to enjoy it, which then makes those people want to know more about it. That desire to know more creates the need for more understanding, and the cycle continues. (see graphic for a clearer understanding of the Heritage Cycle.)
The process of preserving what is essential to us defines our collective identity. By choosing those essential things, we begin to answer the questions of who we are now and what we value. This collective identity informs, influences, and inspires our self-awareness and our actions. Case study after case study has shown that local communities benefit both socially and economically when they recognize and engage in their cultural heritage. There are many reasons for this, and they differ from place to place, but the fact remains: cultural heritage matters. It is part of what makes a place unique. It attracts new people and it retains those who might otherwise leave. It gives meaning and connection to our lives.
These upcoming months will bring continued upheaval in our personal lives as it stretches the fabric of our community. I am encouraged during these times that Gloucester has such a strong sense of its cultural heritage. As we move forward, we move forward as a community. Maritime Gloucester will continue to champion our heritage, preserve our working waterfront, celebrate our connections with the ocean, and be a good neighbor to our beloved community. We believe that our heritage makes us strong and will be an essential part of our recovery.
Thank you for your support and for your desire to help us continue our work.
Michael De Koster