Preserving History and the First Amendment

On August 14, 2017, I published a blog entitled, “History is yesterday, today, tomorrow….” In the blog, one of the things that I talked about was the idea that historical societies are interested in capturing life, even if it’s from today. Now that we’re at a very unusual point in time (pandemic, financial and employment crisis, and a long overdue refocus on civil rights), it’s all the more important that our historical societies collect information and artifacts from our time. My wife, several weeks ago, sent an email to the membership of our town’s historical society, reminding people to collect and submit what they can, even if it’s no more than excerpts from a journal that they may be keeping.

I belong to the National Press Photographers Association. Early on, the newsletters that they have been sending out were filled with stories of how our current circumstances have changed the lives of shooters in this important profession. It started with a spotlight on how photographers are capturing families as they cope with their quarantine (please, not more family photos at the front door), and what some shooters were facing with the loss of assignments and staff positions. It has since turned to incredible photos of people picketing for equal rights.

Unfortunately, these newsletters have also been filled with stories of press photographers being singled out, roughed up, and seriously injured simply for performing their jobs, which are protected by the first amendment to the US Constitution. One photographer has lost the sight in one eye due to being hit by a rubber bullet. She had the proper credentials on clear display. Call it policing overreach or a specific action designed to stifle important news to control the narrative. It is vitally important that these photographers are allowed access to all corners of this ongoing event, capturing reality as they perceive it to be. Even if you don’t think that it reflects the truth, they should be permitted to safely perform their jobs anyway. It’s often all we have.

How do you think your town’s historical society will/should record the events of today? What do you believe you can do to be part of the story that they will record for future generations to learn from?

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