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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 22, 2020   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Editorial: Local history has significant role in Ithaca community

Going to school at Ithaca College has many perks: incomparable views of the lake from the top of South Hill, an ever-changing array of weather patterns and a multitude of restaurants to try. One of the best aspects of going to school in Ithaca, however, is the fascinating history of the town itself. 

To highlight the personal histories that exist in Tompkins County, students in the History of Environmental Thought class at the college have been delving deep into The History Center archives, currently located in the Tompkins Center for History and Culture. The students researched archives on a variety of topics and presented their findings at The History Center on Dec. 11. 

The research project not only provided a crucial opportunity for students to learn more about the town they attend college in, but the project allowed them to utilize local resources and build relationships with the community in the process. 

Tompkins County has an extremely rich local history, from the typhoid epidemic of 1903 to protests of the proposed construction of a nuclear power plant on Cayuga Lake. However, many students at the college have a minimal understanding of this history and its long-lasting impacts on the town they live in.

While Ithaca is widely considered a college town, its identity and history go much beyond the two colleges that are located within it — history that students should do their best to acknowledge and appreciate. 

It is only too easy for students at the college to grow comfortable with their position “up on the hill.” While many frequent The Commons and other popular hubs like the Ithaca Farmers Market, there is generally a lack of intimate, authentic connection between college students and the local community.

To get the most out of their experience at the college, students should make an active effort to get to know the community — a big part of which includes educating themselves on the local history, which significantly informs the current culture and identity of the town.The History of Environmental Thought class’ archival research project gave students an opportunity to do just that. Moving forward, students should take advantage of any and all opportunities to truly get to know the town that, for many students at the college, has become home.