When I first joined the History Center’s board in 2007, one of the things that struck me was the wealth of stories from Fort Wayne’s history—the thrilling, scary, inspiring or complicated kind that I certainly didn’t learn in school.
I can remember meeting Jim DeVinney for lunch—he was the marketing director at the time, and had an Irishman’s gift for weaving a spellbinding story, honed by the discipline of years of TV and film writing and production. Plus several Emmys to boot. He started telling me about his research into William Wells.
Now, I knew the basics about Wells (a white boy captured and raised by the Indians…plus…um…Wells Street and Wells County) but I was enthralled as Jim painted a broader picture of Wells’ life (which ended tragically at the Fort Dearborn massacre. Did you know it is actually a mark of great respect for your courage to have your heart eaten? It’s true. Didn’t learn that in 4th grade.)
The story of our founding is just as riveting as, say, Last of the Mohicans, but I bet most people aren’t familiar with anything deeper than the Old Fort, or the copper dude on the copper horse in Freimann Square.
The marketing committee’s major project for the year was to create new brand standards for The History Center. As we worked on a message that would best reflect the essence of things like Old City Hall, the Chief Richardville House, and the amazing items in our collection, this is the description we came up with:
The History Center has been collecting and telling the story of Fort Wayne and Allen County for nearly a century. As an institution with a distinguished heritage and fascinating history, it has naturally accumulated some dust over the years, but it holds a repository of artifacts and stories that can still spark a fire in the imaginations of visitors and schoolchildren in the years to come. At first glance, a visitor to the Old City Hall might see a forbidding fortress. Look more closely, and the graceful arches invite visitors to come and join the story.
…The stories we tell have stood the test of time, and it is our duty to ensure they continue to be told with passion, precision, and the diligent craftsmanship that ensures they will continue to be shared in the centuries to come. At the same time, we must speak to new audiences, in a manner that is clear, fresh and compelling.
Thus, the guiding light to all we do at The History Center is to bring out and polish till they shine our treasures—“Our Stories.” It’s my hope that this blog can help bring some of those stories to life, now that we are no longer in 4th grade, and are free to soak up knowledge, seek out our own books, and plan our own field trips.