An article in today's Wall Street Journal about a thriving carriage and wagon builder and restorer in South Dakota mentioned Wells Fargo. (Check out the "Shop In-Stock Wagons" page.) Their well-known stage coaches—they have 24—appeared in 800 events last year. In addition, they have 10 Wells Fargo history museums across the country.
In the case of Wells, their heritage is a brand asset and one that they have wisely hung onto and invested in. They even have a "head of historical services," Beverly Smith.
Before anyone dismisses what Wells is doing as "marketing" that will "make them money," realize that if more companies believed that there was a measurable ROI from investing in history, we'd have more historical iconography, more heads of historical services, and more (admittedly small) history museums and displays.
Surely all of us believe that understanding history is relevant and important in many ways. But where does that conviction start, and how do we get broader support for this view?
It begins with history being present:
presence → awareness → interest → engagement → understanding → relevance → action
From presence, to awareness, to something that sparks interest or curiosity, to learning more (engagement), understanding what you've learned, being able to connect it to decisions you make for yourself and in your family, community, state, country, and beyond (relevance), and ultimately action. This action may take the form of reading, supporting historic preservation in your community, joining your local historical society, volunteering at your historic site, or helping instill an interest in history in your children.
Surely we all believe that history isn't just for the classroom or the history museum, historic site, or house museum.
We need to encourage efforts to get history out and about so that people bump into it wherever they go and whatever they do.