Photos and artifacts from today should be set aside for future historians, points out Dublin's newly named city historian, Steve Minniear.
"I worked to get the city to start collecting artifacts, like the signs they put in parks to tell people not to play on the play structures," Minniear said. "We want to have an idea how we are coping now."
At this time, the most requested photographs at Dublin Heritage Park are those from around 1918, the last pandemic, he said.
"We have to remember to save the photos we are taking now and to send them to the local historical society," Minniear said. "Every 'now' picture eventually becomes a 'then' picture."
Minniear is the author of "Dublin, California: A Brief History" and co-author of "Dublin and the Tri-Valley: The World War II Years," a pictorial history of Camp Parks, Camp Shoemaker, Shoemaker Naval Hospital and Livermore Naval Air Station.
It was the local military bases that captured his attention as a young boy on the long car ride from his home in San Jose to visit relatives in the Central Valley.
"I was a little kid in the back seat, bored out of my mind," Minniear recalled. "When we would get to Highway 50, my mom would say, 'There is the prisoner of war camp.' I could see the old guard towers. There were fascinating old wooden structures on the side of the road."
"Why is this place here? What does it mean?" he remembered asking himself.
Then in 1987, Minniear and his family moved to Dublin, and he began research to satisfy his old boyhood curiosity about the military installations, which led to the rest of the area's history.
"Many people are interested in history," Minniear said, but when they retire and finally have time to pursue the interest, they often move away.
"Dublin is a young town (incorporated in 1982) in a lot of different ways. There are not as many seniors as you would think a city would have, so we don't get a lot of people retired and ready to devote their time to civic enterprises," he added.
Minniear has been president of the Dublin Historical Preservation Association, a member of the Dublin City Heritage and Cultural Arts Commission, the volunteer archivist for Dublin's Heritage Park and Museums, and a volunteer curator for the Dublin Camp Parks Military History Center.
Dublin created the position of city historian in 2007, and Georgean Vonheeder-Leopold was the first in the role. Minniear's term began last month and runs through December 2024.
"Some people would have said I was the informal Dublin historian for quite some time," Minniear noted, but now he is defining his new role.
"How do you share and promote history?" he mused. "It's a challenge, especially now in COVID times. We don't have the opportunity to give talks."
"I have talked to a number of city historians in the Tri-Valley and they have different focuses," he added, such as walking tours and working in the museums. "I spend a lot of time on Facebook promoting stuff, such as 'Dublin Buildings Now and Then,' and the Dublin Historical Preservation Association page."
Minniear also has given dozens of presentations to local groups, which have gone onto Zoom during the pandemic.
He remembered a talk he gave a few years ago at the Dublin Library about Lois Jordan, a widow who set up a soup kitchen in San Francisco. After three years and serving more than 1 million meals, she moved to a farm in Dublin around 1934 where she grew food for the poor.
"She would drive up and down the roads and put bread and food in boxes so the 'hobos' could get the food without going into the towns," he said.
Minniear also writes entries on historical figures for Wikipedia. He recently gave a presentation to the Etude Club of Berkeley about one of its most famous members, Grace Adams East.
"She was America's foremost woman trumpeter," he explained. "Someone donated a bunch of her letters to me. She performed in Australia, England, France -- and was caught in France in early World War II."
Minniear noted that digital versions of newspapers and documents are easily lost.
"One reason I wrote these books is so there is a physical representation," he said.
"Museums don't get stuff unless someone gives it to them. It's a challenge," he emphasized. "We tend to forget we live in historical times."