Our View: History And Economics

The Jonathan Young Windmill in Orleans.  FILE PHOTO

It's one of the hallmarks of life in New England. Even the tiniest towns seem to have historical societies and museums, testifying to the value we place on our own heritage.

Chatham, Harwich and Orleans are home to lots of preservationists and history buffs. A glimpse in the windows of the workshop at the Coast Guard station shows that finishing touches are being put on the Orleans Historical Society's CG36500 rescue boat, which typically spends the summer at Rock Harbor. Thanks to the Disney film, public interest in the famed Pendleton rescue of 1952 is as great as ever.

In Harwich, Brooks Academy Museum is readying its exhibits for the season, including the newly restored Elmer Crowell Barn and workshop, and an exciting new display on old “magic lantern” glass slides of photos taken in Harwich in the 1800s. Visitors can even pretend to be a visitor in the parlor of a sea captain's home. Brooks Academy offers visitors to town a great opportunity to explore Harwich beyond the glitter of Harwich Port. That's good for business.

Chatham is hosting History Weekend this weekend, with a variety of exhibits and special activities hosted by a coalition of museums and organizations. Visitors can tour the Godfrey Windmill or the Caleb Nickerson House, check out the Marconi Center or the Atwood House Museum, all for free. It's a not-to-be-missed opportunity for history buffs.

It's also good for business. Heritage tourism is a key contributor to the local economy.

So if you're a visitor to the area, be sure to set aside some time to learn about local history; you won't be disappointed. And if you're a taxpayer, also take a moment to notice the number of people who are enjoying these activities, some of which your property tax or Community Preservation Act appropriations supported.