Storytelling keeps history alive and relevant
By Jeff Rubin
Pinole History Museum
In early 2023 ago I attended a community Passover seder.
Storytelling is the essence of Passover, the Jewish holiday that commemorates and celebrates the freeing of Jewish slaves from bondage in ancient Egypt. This history has been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years through the seder, a traditional meal, during which the Passover story is re-told.
When explaining to the congregation why we do this, the rabbi said, “If we don’t tell our stories, our stories die.”
It’s the same with history. If we don’t share our history from generation to generation, our history dies. And with it dies part of our culture and part of our heritage.
In 2023, the Pinole Historical Society and Pinole History Museum are commemorating the 200th anniversary of the El Pinole Grant awarded to Mexican Lieutenant Ygnacio Nicanor Martínez, nearly 18,000 acres of land that today includes the entirety of the city of Pinole.
People, families, and communities are shaped by history. If their stories are not told, if their history is not preserved, their stories and their history become something else — forgotten.
A majority of the Pinole City Council is unwilling to renovate the Faria House for any purpose, including a museum. The council is considering selling this historic home. It’s unfortunate the value of a museum to the city is not recognized.
It’s been a long struggle to establish a history museum in Pinole. While we had hoped we’d be open by now, we’re resolute in seeing our mission to fruition.
Until the Pinole History Museum gets a home, we will tell our city’s stories and bring its history to the community through our newsletter, talks to community groups, collaboration with schools, special events, several Facebook pages, email blasts to our members and friends — and anything else we can think of.
We’re working on creating an online virtual museum with dedicated exhibits, and a smartphone app that will include a tour of historic sites, homes, businesses, the arts, and people in our city’s history, with oral histories and recorded information.
We are committed to our mission: To promote awareness and appreciation of history through preservation and education, and chronicle the city’s heritage for current and future generations.
In March, we installed the first of what will be several pop-up exhibits featuring vignettes of Pinole’s history. This one, about the historic Ellerhorst family, is at Mechanics Bank on Pinole Valley Road. More exhibits are planned.
• The Pinole Historical Society’s YouTube Channel contains more than 40 videos covering Pinole’s history.
• The Pinole Historical Society continues to publish its quarterly newsletter, Newsbriefs, supported by local advertisers who share the society's goal to "enhance the preservation and collection of artifacts that represent Pinole history and culture and to educate and inspire Pinole residents’ community affiliation and civic pride.”
• The Pinole Historical Society and Pinole History Museum Facebook pages regularly publish information about the history of our city. This information is shared on half a dozen other local and area Facebook pages.
• The Pinole Historical Society and Pinole History Museum Facebook pages re continues its yearly history essay contest in Pinole schools. This year we commemorated the 200th anniversary of the 1823 El Pinole Grant to Lt. Ygnacio Martínez that eventually established the city of Pinole by asking students to write about the significance of this land grant and others in the Bay Area.
• The Pinole Historical Society produces its annual Veterans Day Memorial and Flag Retirement Ceremony. This year’s event, the 15th, will be held Saturday, November 11, at 11 a.m. in Fernandez Park.
• The Pinole Historical Society continues to add photos to its Collections Management System database on CatalogIt, a cloud-based online service. Metadata has been added to more than 500 historical photos that have been uploaded to CatalogIt and are available to the public to view at: https://hub.catalogit.app/157.
• The Pinole Historical Society has a booth at the Pinole Farmers Market from April through December, where residents of Pinole and neighboring communities can share their stories, get information about the city's history, and purchase one of the many local and area history books we sell.
Imagine what we could accomplish if we had a home!
It’s important to know this city’s history and the history of its people. The people who lived here 100 and 200 years ago formed our community — its landscape, its culture, its values, and its identity. All of our activities help keep our city’s history alive and contribute to peoples’ understanding of contemporary Pinole. These stories need to be told so they are not forgotten, so they don’t die.
As he usually does, Pinole Historical Society co-founder George Vincent said it best: “The challenge of history is to recognize its time flow so we can better understand it. To understand history, we have to somehow bridge then and now and connect the dots of past events with the present. One way to do this is by learning to view the past not in terms of timelines or yesterdays, but rather as an ongoing present.”
Be sure to check back regularly for news updates about what’s going on at the Pinole History Museum.