Arnold Springer: Filling the Void

By Kate Fulton

History teaches us how to be better citizens, how to function within society, and, above all, gives us a sense of belonging. Or, as Dr. Arnold Springer puts it, "history fills a void."

Springer doesn't look like your typical historian, with his vintage sunglasses and long, scraggly beard. But his Departures: Venice interview is nonetheless eloquent on the role of history in our present lives and communities. In hopes of filling the historical void around Venice, California, Springer has collected an impressive array of materials related to the city's modern history, housed at the Venice Archives at CSULB, as well as early 20th-century documents for The Venice History Book Project. The primary goal of the Book Project is to

produce and publish comprehensive chronologies built around ... primary, anecdotal and official written materials, so that the people of the Venice community can re-imagine themselves using the mirror of the past.

Dr. Springer's work centers around providing the public with direct access to primary resources about their city. Instead of pushing a specific narrative, Springer is providing fellow residents the tools and the raw materials with which to construct their own city narrative, to be their own historians. The Venice narratives that evolve out of these projects will vary from person to person. Everyone who looks in this "mirror" will see a slightly different reflection. Arnold Springer's job? Supplying the mirror.

About the Author

is associate editor of kcet.org. She enjoys public media of all kinds, froyolife, and crossword puzzles.
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