Victoria Thompson – Project Officer
Whilst clearing out some dusty old clutter in her house, my sister recently came across a lock of my hair which our grandma trimmed and placed in an envelope when I was a one year old. Not knowing really what to do with it, nor wanting to keep it or make the difficult decision to throw it out, she sent it to me in the post.
I must admit my initial reaction on receiving the lock of hair was to throw it out straight away as I felt it had no value to me and it was a little disgusting. But then I started to reflect on why no one had thrown it out over the past 33 years. My Family had seen value in this piece of my history and had made an emotional connection to it, although it meant nothing to me now, it was obviously important to someone at some point.
These small pieces of our past are very much like marker points or stepping stone in the river of our lives. When you stand on the stone you can view the river flowering around you, you can see what came before and look ahead into the distance. In the case of my lock of hair, it created a connection with my own beginning, where I came from and how far I’ve come. It also allows me to see the world through my grandmother’s eyes and her line of sight into a time earlier than my existence, a view which I otherwise would have never seen. It’s about our sense of place, not necessarily a geographic place but a sense of belonging within a family or to a community or a time within our own life narrative. I was surprised that as I dug deeper and analysed this piece of me I became ever more aware of its true value.
How easily I could have destroyed this little piece of my heritage, like the many grandfather clocks cut up for firewood in people’s back yards, it made me realise that without a human emotional connection to our heritage it is often lost.
The human value of our heritage is very different to the price of it. If a piece of history is no longer seen as important to us it is often destroyed so we have to ensure heritage is loved throughout the generations to preserve it. Which means building in the modern, what people feel is important now and speaks to the people of today, because if not there will be no heritage for the future. Preserving heritage isn’t about walking through a museum it’s about throwing that stone in the river which will become the next marker point, painting a picture of who we are and what matters to us today so we are not lost to the people in our future.
Sometimes to make space to build tomorrow’s heritage, as the current holders of the lock of hair we have to make difficult decisions on what we have to let go of and lay to rest. I’m sure you all have something in your house that you have inherited, don’t like but cannot bring yourself to throw away because it was your ancient relatives favourite thing. Within the South Cliff Gardens for example we know that there’s been a number of shelters lost throughout time and we’ve made the incredibly difficult decision not to put them back. We are however documenting them extensively, restoring all existing shelters and putting in a new building at the heart of the space, which will be a modern reflection of today’s world. With a focus on environmental materials, accessibility and community cohesion, we feel this building will show a little piece of us and the hundreds of people from all walks of life who’ve been involved in the project. Trust me, no decisions have been made lightly when it comes to preserving the South Cliff Gardens history; this is because we are incredibly lucky to have an army of volunteer groups who are passionate about preserving heritage, a brilliant Conservation Officer on hand within the council and a community who’s loved the garden for centuries.
Our job now is to transfer the love of this priceless space into the children of tomorrow.