Monuments and museums are controversial when they reveal flaws in a changing America.

Many memorials in America’s South, historian Jon Meacham reminds us, were “built as emblems of defiance to federal authority in the post-Reconstruction period and in the Warren Court years of the 1950s and ’60s.” This is what defines them differently from others, like a monument to Thomas Jefferson or George Washington, who Meacham sees as major proponents of America’s odyssey.

That odyssey is the broader story. It is a history lesson I have learned with Portland’s small-sized Tate House Museum, named after Capt. George Tate. An even more challenging lesson, however, is how we educate a changing nation.

A local mast agent for the British Empire, Tate had a black servant, probably an enslaved woman like those owned by Jefferson and Washington. And like those Founding Fathers, Tate lived a personal life in a historically larger, often clashing, state.

Beyond the narrow confines of this city’s oldest house museum, one can find a lively story of how Portland emerged in its Colonial Stroudwater village before and after the American Revolution. It was a time of sweeping cultural and historical issues: global trade and world war; gun control and the death penalty; social divisions over national identity; family and economic changes. Nestled between the Fore and Stroudwater rivers, a seemingly static and sanitized historic Tate House becomes a Portland window on America’s journey.

Yet how can relevance in exploring such history lessons draw in emerging Portland and American generations? There are resourceful educational approaches that historical museums might consider with new audiences. A definitive example is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway mega-hit about Alexander Hamilton inspired by historian Ron Chernow’s landmark biography. Using hip-hop music and multiracial performers, the show created a profound educational experience drawing unprecedented attention.

Like Hamilton, Capt. Tate was an ambitious, business-driven immigrant. Both faced and differently engaged in a divided Colonial world.

The bigger backdrop in their lives is what New York Times writer David Brooks describes as an American exodus. They were part of a political journey that goes from Puritans to abolitionist Frederick Douglass; from Maine’s past European arrivals to present-day immigrants of color. In 1763, Tate saw faith in odyssey, helping found Portland’s present-day St. Paul’s Parish. Brooks sees the power of faith in last-century theological proponents, like Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King Jr., who helped enhance America’s experience.

Historic ties bind with today’s biographies of individuals troubled over political uncertainties. It is why thoughtful humorists, like Jon Stewart, see political fragmentation as ever-present in America’s journey. Like Miranda, Stewart takes a comic approach to our differences that has made politics more appealing to new generations. Comedy Central does likewise, providing young “Drunk History” slapstick lessons about America’s past.

Music, diversity and humor offer enterprising ways for community museums to reach and educate changing audiences. It explains why, last year, we used educational recreation to organize a Tate House “Colonial Frolic” on the Spurwink Farm in Cape Elizabeth. Young and old alike learned Colonial experiences through games, historic tours and performances. Thousand-pound oxen were there, hauling timber the way they did to promote global trade centuries ago. These huge creatures were used to help transport Maine’s beautiful pine trees that provided mast wind power for British naval fleets.

This year’s event, scheduled for Saturday, will be adding a 5K Trail Run and Colonial pancake breakfast, with students assisting, shadowing docents and learning history. We seek expanded student experiences using music, poetry, comedy, acting and art to make Tate history more interesting and relevant.

Discussions with local museums are also occurring to expand social media and digital marketing for younger, tech-savvy audiences. This is crucial to connecting their broader relevance with more creative outreach.

Critical today is the hope that local museums, like the Tate House, can better educate Maine residents on how today’s America learns from Portland’s unfiltered Colonial conflicts. The alternative is to remain less able to understand and evaluate Portland and American history.

And in a presently troubled nation, abandonment of history invites tragedy from failures to know its lessons.