The Hay River Heritage Centre opened 20 years ago – on Aug. 26, 2000.

We feel it is only appropriate that we stop for a second and mark that anniversary, and thank the people who created what is now an important part of our town.

The Hay River Heritage Centre – or the ‘museum’ as it is informally and commonly known – is vital to our identity as a community.

It is one thing to see pictures from the past (and there are lots of historical photos at the heritage centre), but it is quite another thing to see actual artifacts that have survived the passage of time. That is educational and sometimes even awe-inspiring.

Over the years, we have heard some people question why it is important to study history or even have a basic knowledge of the past, and we always find that attitude somewhat puzzling.

Without knowledge of history, we lack a proper understanding and explanation of the world today. Nothing exists today without being the product of the past. That goes for everything – technology, social norms, music, politics. Everything.

Only by knowing the past can we truly know who we are today and what has brought our society to this point in time.

We would argue that knowledge of the past is more important than visions of the future. Without knowing the past, we would be running blind into the future.

It is a cliché that if you don’t know the past, you are doomed to repeat it. There is truth in that, but unfortunately some people know the mistakes of the past and repeat them, anyway.

What any community or society needs is an accurate picture of the past. If the worst aspects of the past are repeated, at least they were warned.

There are also many good things to learn from the past. Perhaps there was more social cohesion in a community, perhaps there were some positive environmental practices that could be revived, perhaps there was some traditional remedy that could be useful today.

All of that – the good and the bad from history – is vital to preserve.

So we honour and thank the people who started the Hay River Heritage Centre two decades ago and kept it going all this time.

In a curious sense, the creation of the heritage centre is itself now part of Hay River’s history. It is something worth remembering, as was done with an anniversary celebration this past weekend.

Like everything else this year, access to the Hay River Heritage Centre has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, but we would encourage everyone in town to use the resource as much as possible.

In doing this week’s You Said It! below, we were somewhat taken aback when some community residents said they had never been in the Hay River Heritage Centre, and therefore they could offer no comment.

We encourage everyone to learn all they can about history, and the Hay River Heritage Centre is a good place to start.

You might just learn something surprising and enlightening about your life today.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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