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[p. 126]

The work of local Historical societies.

LOCAL historical societies in the United States are numerous and rapidly increasing. They possess in the aggregate large wealth in buildings, libraries, collections, and invested funds. This property is well placed and much more may profitably be given by contributing members and men of wealth to a work which is in the highest degree educative and patriotic. Good citizenship flourishes best in that community which holds in respect its past and knows well the growth of its own institutions. No one who is qualified to hold an opinion doubts that the historical society has a mission. It is equally certain that its functions are not yet fully defined and understood. The work of local and State societies in this field will unfold itself by gradual development, as has that of the historical student and teacher, in accord with the growth of the science of history itself. To every local historical society, therefore, the questions of its proper functions, how it may best relate itself to the broader field of human history, and whether any new ways of usefulness, unrecognized by it hitherto, have opened, are always pertinent for consideration.

Herein lies a real problem. That the work of these societies is appropriately in the local field is an axiom. On the other hand the question arises: How far can the study of history in the local field be wisely carried without reference to the wider life with which the local life is and always has been inseparably associated? There is danger of belittling true history into mere antiquarianism by an excessive attention to the purely local. Work in the closely associated field of genealogy illustrates the same danger. Many ardent investigators of their genealogy devote weeks of patient research to filling in charts with names utterly meaningless to them and to others. To know the sources

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