“You raze the old to raise the new.” (Justin Chen), as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. In modern terms this concept is sometimes called creative destruction. The idea seems to be the need to tear down the old to make way for the new. It is applied to buildings and industries and sometimes, unfortunately to relationships.
I’m not a Luddite by any means; however, I have a conflict of sorts with this concept, especially the rather cavalier discarding of everything old to make way for the new. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that I’m currently the President of the Milford Historical Society – a group dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the Milford area. The name Milford came about because the area provided ample water-power sources and one could easily ford the Huron River at this point in the Huron Valley. Many mills of all sorts were built in Milford, none of which exist today. They were all torn down to make way for progress. Other communities that didn’t do so now have a nice attraction for visitors to see how things were done more than a century ago. All we have now are pictures of the mills in our Milford Historical Museum. Perhaps preserving at least one mill would have been a good idea.
Entire industries also get destroyed by progress and some of that is inevitable. The entire industry built around the horse and carriage as a means of transportation was rendered obsolete and useless by the invention of the automobile. The rise of the railroad industry put a quick end to the nascent industry devoted to building canals to allow for transport by boat. Eventually the railroads, at least as a means of long distance travel, were largely obsoleted by the rise of the airplane and the airliner. The railroad industry shifted almost completely to bulk transporting, which is does better than airplanes. There are lots of other examples. Of course, not all progress has been accompanied by the demise of earlier industries. In some cases the new didn’t replace anything old; it just allowed new things that hadn’t been done before. One could argue the case for computers or the Internet as examples; although there were some things that were probably displaced by them, too.
Sometimes we allow new relationships to tear down old ones, often due to the demands of either the new or the old. New friends or loves in our lives demand attention, which is often time taken away from an older relationship. That does not go unnoticed and can sour the previous relationship. In the case of your life partner, there can be only one at a time, both legally and practically. Other long-term relationships, especially those of blood, can also get displaced. There’s an old saying that mothers everywhere know is somewhat true – “a son is a son until he takes a wife, but a daughter’s a daughter for all of her life.” Many moms feel displaced by their son’s wife, at least partially; but the woman to women relationship that remains between the mom and her daughter may just get stronger as the daughter matures.
Can there be progress without destruction? Can new things develop without tearing down the old? I think so. There is no doubt that the old will be somewhat displaced by the new; however, perhaps the old can assume a new role and not be completely destroyed. At a minimum, some examples of the old should be saved as part of our history and heritage, so that our children can see and appreciate how things were before the world that they live in came about. That is the role of our museums; a role that should be supported by the community, both financially, so that they can continue to exist, and by the community’s use and participation in their programs.
Our Milford Historical Museum is one tiny repository of history in our little corner of the world. It operates totally on donations, both from the community and from the membership of the Milford Historical Society. You can learn more about it at our web site – www.milfordshistory.org . We are currently involved in a project to preserve a key part of our history by bringing an important part of it into the 21st Century. The Milford Historical Society has for some time been collecting and preserving copies of the weekly publication The Milford Times on microfilm. Microfilm is an industry that is ending – displaced by the more modern digital means of storing things. The old microfilm machines are hard or impossible to buy or maintain anymore. So, we have joined several other local historical groups and libraries in the area in a project to have our microfilm library of issues of the Milford Times dating back to 1871 digitized into a searchable dtatbase. This is a valuable historical research resource that will become much more accessible once we get the library digitized, indexed and on-line. The project will go on to digitize images of our Museum’s collection of old photos and other memorabilia.
You can read more about the microfilm digitization project at our web site, as well as how to vote for this project in a grant competition in which we are a finalist. Between January 19 and January 25, any Tweets on Twitter that carry the hash tag #DigMilford will count as a vote for this project. I hope that many of my readers will vote for us and our project to preserve the history of the Milford area. I’ll post another reminder closer to the voting window dates.