THAT WAS THEN

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by Clark Knowles

Your local TEDx community is bursting with change. We've got a new name (TEDxPortsmouth), a new logo and new 2018 theme design, and on Friday, September 7th, 2018, an exciting group of new speakers will take the stage at our new location: the historic Music Hall theater in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire. 
To celebrate all of this newness, we've decided to look back. 
 
This year's theme is: "That Was Then." We're going to take stock of the way things were, look at how things are, and then start a conversation about how things will be. Our speakers will help us extract the good and discard the unwanted items in our collective past; we can explore our community's successes and failures; we can learn from our history and rise above its repetition. 

We'll look at how we've historically treated our environment, raised our children, and interacted with those different from us to see if we're stuck in out-dated behaviors and concepts and practices. We'll hear innovative ideas that might solve our community's most significant challenges, revolutionize our businesses, make our towns more inviting, and maybe even save the planet.

What town other than Portsmouth, and what venue other than The Music Hall, could be better suited to support and frame such an exploration? Nestled on Chestnut Street on a plot of land that was once an almshouse and a town jail, the Music Hall is a one hundred and forty-year-old theater that has become a vital institution in our old port town. 



Chestnut Street circa 1900
Chestnut Street circa 1900

In this image (courtesy of the Patch Collection, Strawbery Banke Museum), Congress Street and Chestnut Street are muddy and unpaved. American Stables offers a convenient hitching post for your equine companion. The Music Hall, without the massive stagehouse that Frank Jones added after purchasing the building is tucked behind the Kearsarge House, a humble yet lively community gathering space. Its location is the same, but much like the town it serves, the theater has studied its historical tradition so that it might always be a valuable and diverse space. 

When audiences arrive for the TEDxPortsmouth 2018 event, they will walk many of the same streets and pass many of the same buildings as they did in 1878 or 1918, but they will pass under The Chestnut Street Arch, part of a streetscape initiative, a gift from the Music Hall to the town of Portsmouth. The arch honors our town's architectural, economic, and social heritage. And they will gather to hear the TEDxPortsmouth speakers in a gorgeously renovated, state of the art performance space. 

There, along with the echoes of hundreds of thousands of Music Hall attendees, they will look back and dream forward. 
 
The Chesnut Street Arch
Chestnut Street Arch