Such was the case of a mysterious bell owned by the Issaquah History Museum of Issaquah, Washington. The bell was donated at a time when low staff numbers at the museum kept it from being properly documented. When the bell was tapped for an exhibit, the staff started scrambling to uncover its history.
The logical speculation that the bell came from one of the area’s many logging camps proved to be wrong. While on display as a logging camp bell, its true identity became known when museum director Erica Maniez happened upon an article that identified it as arriving from San Francisco at the Lars Wold farm.
There it was placed in a washhouse cupola where it summoned farm workers to meals and warned of emergencies. It was later used as a fire bell by the Issaquah volunteer fire department, according to an article in the Issaquah Press.
Without the serendipitous discovery of the documenting article, the bell would likely still be displayed erroneously.
You can avoid such mistakes with your own family’s possessions if you take the time to record their histories and make them accessible to family members.
Writing prompt for the day: Record the histories of your own family artifacts where known and start searching for information on those you don’t know about.
Larry Lehmer is a professional personal historian and legacy planner who helps people preserve their family histories. To learn more, visit his web site, send him an e-mail or follow him on Twitter.