Discovering Community History

 When you look at a community, you can see its physical history in the buildings, parks, street designs, and traffic patterns. You can learn about its social history when you talk with long-time residents, visit museums, and search old records. History helps describe why a community is the way it is.

The information is important to have, because decisions made today about what we want for the future are often based on past experiences.  Below are some activities that help you uncover your community history.

  1. Organize a history hunt or scavenger hunt in which you bring back information about the city. You might interview a city official about a particular local issue or an elderly person about his or her childhood in the city; bring back a flyer from a local museum or a picture, photo, or drawing of some local site; write a report about a civic event, place, or official.
  2.  Interview long term residents or family members to find out some of the history of the community. Publish these stories in a newsletter, circular, school newspaper, or on-line school newspaper.
  3. Visit with the local historical society, preservation board, or planning commissions. These groups each have a different way of looking at the physical, social and cultural history of the community.
  4. Find out if there are there any famous people who grew up in your community? Invite several current residents to class to share stories about what the community was like in the past. Ask these people how the community has changed and what has caused these changes.
  5. Have there been larger events taking place locally, statewide, or nationally that have influenced the way your community has changed?
  6. How has the development of the Iinterstate highway system changed your community?
  7. Does your community have a town square? If so, what is the history of the square? You might want to visit the square and study the buildings. What kinds of businesses are now located on the square? Compare today's businesses to the businesses that were there in the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980s, and 1990’s. How did the automobile change the square?
  8. How many churches/synagogues/mosques does your community have? How have these religious institutions influenced the community's development? Is there a main religion in the community or are there many different religions in the area?  Does religious diversity help a community? Explain.
  9. Many older communities or neighborhoods have an ethnic or racial history that has changed over time. Often that history can be seen in the type of architecture that is there. Does the architecture in your community show a particular ethnic heritage? If so, is that ethnic group still strong in the community? How has its influence changed?

Links to discovering your community history can be found through the archives of newspapers and historical societies.  Here are a few websites that might help you in discovering some aspect of your Community History. Many cities and counties in Missouri also have their own Historical Societies.