Sometimes, when you think you’ve seen every commemorative statue and memorial in your town, you find another one hiding under the rug — or in this case, prominently displayed in a public space. Here’s a piece of local history and cultural heritage I just recently discovered at the Port Washington Town Dock:
The bronze plaque reads:
TO COMMEMORATE The Achievement of the First Commercial Survey Flights made across the North Atlantic jointly by PAN AMERICAN AIRWAYS and IMPERIAL AIRWAYS (forerunner of British Overseas Airways Corporation)
Piloted by Captain Harold E. Gray, the Pan American Sikorsky S-42B Clipper Flying Boat departed from Port Washington and arrived at Foynes, Ireland, July 9, 1937
Piloted by Captain Arthur S. Wilcockson, the Imperial Airways Short ‘C’ Class Flying Boat ‘Caledonia’ Arrived at Port Washington on this date from Foynes.
Thus was Pioneered the beginning of a New Era in Communications between the Peoples of the World
Erected by the Wings Club, 1969
Commemorative markers like the one above preserve the relevancy and memory of historical events. Whether a small sign or statue, a large site or memorial, when erected in public for a wide audience to interpret, these tangible dedicative landmarks of the past are important features of humans’ shared cultural landscape: they share an element of history to communicate a lesson to present and future generations. (See, for examples, a previous post highlighting the Holocaust exhibition at London’s Imperial War Museum reminds us that negative memory can provide healthy negotiation of a tragic past; and also a larger-than-life statue eternalizes Mister Rogers’s legacy of teaching children how to be responsible, open-minded human beings.)
Readers, what do you think is the relationship between local commemoration and global appreciation of our shared cultural heritage? In what ways do other people benefit from the interaction I’ve enjoyed with this one plaque? (Or conversely, in what ways can I benefit from other people’s production of their own cultural heritage?)
I’m thankful for the 1937 transatlantic journey, and plaque commemorating the event, which serve to remind me of Culture in Peril’s fundamental belief: local heritage can and should be universally embraced by humans a time and world apart.
You're so right about the value of local commemoration and how it ties into and complements broader appreciation of the past. One of my personal favourites is a small memorial to Laurie Lee in the Andalucian town of Almunecar. Lee lived there during the civil war, under some peril, and as well as commemorating his writing about Spain and the effect of the war, the memorial also represents the country beginning to come to terms with its past.