Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood the power of the past. The noted Civil Rights icon once said, "We are not makers of history. We are made by history."

King's assessment also holds true for our communities. People and events forge the character of our cities and towns. Just as our experiences and memories make us who we are, history also impacts the places where we live and work.

Museums and local historical societies are the keepers of our collective memory. In Kentucky, more than 350 organizations preserve and interpret our diverse and important history. These organizations tell our stories, spark conversations, and create transformative experiences for visitors. They help us find meaning from our shared past and provide insight into our current time.

These organizations also play a critical role in economic development. Tourism is Kentucky's third largest industry, contributing $13.1 billion to the state's economy and employing more than 179,000 people. Museums and history organizations are an important part of this industry and help teach visitors what it means to be a Kentuckian.

These organizations, which contribute so much to our state, often need outside funding to undertake even small projects.

The Kentucky Local History Trust Fund -- created through donations that Kentuckians make on their state income tax returns -- provides needed grants to the commonwealth's museums, libraries, and local historical societies.

This year, the Kentucky Historical Society, which manages the Fund, is supporting 17 organizations with grants ranging from $300 to $1,500. These grants help organizations with long-term growth and sustainability, including caring for artifacts, improving exhibits, preserving digital collections, and teaching museum standards and best practices.

These organizations are using the grants for important work. Each year, however, the Local History Trust Fund must be replenished. By donating to the Fund on your state income tax return, you can help more local history organizations meet their missions and improve our communities.

We are, as Dr. King said, "made by history." Please help Kentucky communities preserve and interpret our collective past by contributing to the Kentucky Local History Trust Fund.

Michael J. Hammons is the chair of the Kentucky Historical Society's Governing Board.

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