History, Treasure, and Why It Matters
"It's spent the last 400 years at the bottom of the ocean!"
The curator eyed my latest treasure with a critical eye. I waited and watched his reaction, anticipating something positive would come from his evaluation of the piece. But his years of appraising rare jewelry and historical artifacts gave him a poker-face visage I couldn't read. He was good!
"Do you think it can be fixed?" I was embarrased the ring had elected my palm to be the place it fell apart. My heart began to beat a little faster. I felt horrified that this little gold ring had survived the raging seas, centuries of saltwater and micro-organisms only to fall apart when I held it. "I don't understand..."
"It happens when it comes out of the saltwater after so long." He paused again and looked at the gold through his well-used loupe. "I can fix it."
The sigh escaped, followed by tears. "Thank you!" was all I could say.
The story above isn't uncommon in my world, especially when I hold artifacts brought forth from the sea. Something about the history belonging to such an object makes it almost sacred – invaluable at the very least.
Why are these antiquities so precious to those of us who love history?
I think it's because of the stories these objects tell – some known, many held as secrets buried along with those who lived them. For me, the idea of "What happened?" is magical.
Whenever I hold this ring (in the photo above), I think about its creation. My belief is that this is a wedding ring, crafted by a man with compassion and care for the woman he loved. Her finger is tiny, and the appraiser told me the craftmanship suggested someone skilled but not expert. Inside, the marks of his tools help authenticate the ring – imperfections that create the value.
Whatever this ring's story, it was found at the bottom of the Atlantic sea, lying amongst scattered artifacts of a sunken ship. What happened to that voyage and the couple in my imagination? That part of the story is heartbreaking. But I am the next owner, after the woman with the delicate fingers, and though this ring was not made for me, it is a treasure that I hold dear, almost as if it was meant to belong to me, as well.
History gives us that...treasures and stories and lessons from long ago.
Our goal, as a modern-day, advanced society should be to relish the treasures that come from history – both those that are tangible and those that are tales. My hope is that we cherish books that contain stories and wisdom from writers long passed. Let us teach our children to love history and the valuable trinkets we find in the stories therein.
After all...history always matters because her lessons repeat themselves.
The Deja vu Chronicles is a historical fiction series based on the life of an 18th-century Caribbean pirate named John Phillips.