At what point does something become history?
Obviously, there are those pinnacle moments in our lives where we knew we were witnessing the making of history. Some of these moments were of national significance, like the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary in ’88, or Vancouver in 2010; the Quebec referendums, or the FLQ crisis. Some have a global significance, such as Neil Armstrong walking on the moon or the tragedies of 9/11. We all hold in our minds the “flash bulb” memories of the details of that day in particular. We remember where we were and what we were doing.
But what about the rest of history in the making? What about the parts of our history that were not defined by one dramatic and historic event, but instead, by the creation of a historical narrative one day at a time, or one year at a time?
This is how most of Ottawa’s local history seems to have formed, one day at a time. There are no clear dates on the historical calendar to point to as a clearly defining moment in local history, but instead a large number of dates that contributed to the local history we know today. I’m not necessarily denying that there aren’t any important dates, but none that contribute to the telling of Ottawa’s story singlehandedly.
So without these defining moments in time, how is the historical narrative of Ottawa best told? Through the people who witnessed the evolution of the city and its people over time. It is through living in our communities, and experiencing this city that the story is told. If everyone thinks hard enough, I’m sure they could think of how a part of the city has changed over time. Maybe its simply remembering an old building when it was new, or even the “feel” for your neighbourhood changing over time.
History is made not only by those “flash bulb” memories in our minds, but the stories and experiences we pass on to others. That way history is made – one day at a time.