Tourism Office explains Facebook history posts
I’m writing because it has come to my attention, indirectly, that there has been a complaint by a member of the community about my history posts in Facebook groups and on my personal page “Mr. History Person” and personal blog “http://Fairhaven History.blogspot.com.” This person’s claim is that those things should be posted only on an official Town page. The person stated — in a non-official Facebook group — “You want to post history, do it from a town approved web site. That’s all I’m saying.”
Since the Office of Tourism was started by the Town in 1996, I have guided free public walking tours, presented historical programs at Fort Phoenix, and have promoted Fairhaven’s most important history on Office of Tourism websites. Doing that, however, is not why the Office of Tourism was started. It was started to promote the whole town, and all its attractions and activities, in order to bring visitors into the town to help boost our economy. Fairhaven’s history is only one part of that picture.
And the reason the Office of Tourism had to create and print historical brochures, guide historical walking tours, and do other historical promotion is because little to nothing was being done by anyone else.
Through all my years as Director of Tourism I have approached other people and groups in town to do this privately on their own, so the Office of Tourism would not have to spend its time and resources on history when it had other things to promote such as beaches, marinas, lodging accommodations, walking trails, special events, shopping and restaurants, bike riding, cultural activities, etc., etc. When Natalie Hemingway first developed historical walking tours for the Fairhaven Tourism Committee, before we had an Office of Tourism, she did it to prove that it could be done and that tours of Fairhaven would be popular. It was her hope that a group like the Historical Society or a private tour company would take over and give their own tours for fund-raising or for profit. It was never the intention that the Office of Tourism continue to do that all by itself.
But that never happened.
The Town’s officially appointed Historical Commission does not provide walking tours, publish historical brochures, or run a Town website promoting Fairhaven History. The non-profit Fairhaven Historical Society does not provide walking tours or publish historical brochures. It does operate a museum part-time and sometimes offers one House Tour a year at the holidays.
Other non-profit groups offer limited, sporadic historical activities with a narrow focus, and none offer general, regular public walking tours or publish much historical material, either in print or online.
The historical things that are officially promoted by the Office of Tourism are only the “big” things that are of interest to people outside Fairhaven — Fort Phoenix, the Henry H. Rogers story, the Pilgrim John Cooke, Manjiro Nakahama, Capt. Joshua Slocum, Joseph Bates, and the Delano family — people and things recognized by those outside of town. And those are the primary things that are talked about on walking tours, promoted on http://FairhavenTours. com, and in printed brochures and the Visitors Guide book published by my office.
But residents and former residents of Fairhaven like a lot of other “smaller,” more personal history, too. They like memories of their old schools and teachers, well-known local personalities, history of long-gone businesses like the drug stores and neighborhood shops, history of old houses in town, and so much more. Those kinds of history are not “Office of Tourism” history.
So that is why, when my wife was editor of The Advocate in the 1990s, I started writing an “Ask Mr. History Person” column for the newspaper. When Lori and I later published the Navigator magazine for ten years as a business, I started researching and writing other history on my own time, under the name “Mr. History Person.” We published articles, answered questions, and let people know about historical activities going on in town. I contributed “Mr. History Person” columns to the Fairhaven Neighborhood News. I started a Fairhaven history blog and a “Mr. History Person” page on Facebook. And as social media became even more popular, I started posting old photos and historical tidbits in privately run Facebook groups such as “Grew Up in Fairhaven, MA,” “Hometown Fairhaven, MA,” “North Fairhaven Friends,” “New Bedford, MA, Historical Photo Club,” and others.
Not much of that history is of interest to tourists or can be used on the Office of Tourism website or Facebook pages to bring in tourists from out of town. The Office of Tourism’s advertising in magazines in Rhode Island or on the Cape will never say, “Come to Fairhaven, we used to have Browne’s Pharmacy and Frank’s Dairy Bar!” Those are just memories for us who live or came from here.
Anyone at all can research and write about Fairhaven history and publish it wherever they want to — in magazines and newspapers, on websites, on Facebook. Some do.
Fairhaven’s history should not be promoted ONLY on “town approved” media as has been suggested. Would you want your history fed to you only by a sanctioned and approved government authority? The Office of Tourism will continue to promote the history and historical attractions that might bring tourists to town. Other official or non-profit or private groups and individuals CAN and SHOULD also continue to share stories and photos and memories of our past however and wherever they can.
Christopher Richard, Fairhaven Director of Tourism
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