Reflecting on Place
Caitlin Yager, Program Director, Missouri Humanities
With 6+ years of working for Missouri Humanities under my belt, I firmly believe my greatest takeaway thus far is the importance of place, and our connection to it. Though incredibly broad, the idea of “place” is at the core of many of our public programs, and for good reason.
We all have our special places–places full of memories, places that bring us joy, places that make us reflect. Maybe it’s our hometown, or a friend’s house, a favorite place to grab coffee or a treat, or perhaps it’s a place in nature, where we go to escape and connect with the earth.
Regardless of where or what our special places are, the common denominator for us all is that we hold a deep sense of connection to these places. What is it that connects us to a place? And why do we–individuals, nonprofits, cultural institutions, etc–put so much effort into sharing, preserving, interpreting, or rebuilding places? I believe it’s because understanding people and their connection to a place is a pillar of the humanities.
The humanities, broadly defined, tell us what makes us human. If we ask an individual what their special places are, it would tell us a lot about that person. Maybe it tells us about their upbringing, or how they enjoy spending their time, what they value, what makes them emotional, what they are passionate about…all because of one person’s connection to a place.
When Missouri Humanities hosts Cultural Heritage Workshops, or highlights a Missouri small town through our Small Town Showcase initiative, it is our goal that it helps better connect people to Missouri, to this place. By prioritizing Cultural Heritage Tourism as a pillar of our current strategic plan, we hope to lift up Missouri communities to help them show how their place contributes to the overall story of our state and its people.
Our mission at MH is “to connect Missourians to the people, places, and ideas that shape our society.” I challenge you to take time this week to reflect on some of your favorite places, what it is that connects you to them, and how those places have helped shape you. I hope you soon have a chance to visit your special places and are reminded of your personal story and the story of so many others who might feel a connection to those places as well.
Pictured: Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, AR. One of my “special places”, where my husband and I first vacationed without our kids!