Tim Grove, a long-time AASLH member and author of the “History Bytes” column in History News recently published a book called A Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History (University of Nebraska Press, 2014). I was pleased to get to attend Tim’s first book reading and signing at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, NH last week. Tim is also one of the faculty for the AASLH Focusing on Visitors workshop and got to debut the book while we were holding the workshop.
I read Tim’s book while flying from Tennessee to New Hampshire. In A Grizzly in the Mail, Tim writes of his many adventures in the history field including the story about how he got interested in history as a boy while visiting Colonial Williamsburg. He was captivated by the music, the smells, and other special things from America’s past. He writes, “A sense of curiosity about that past gripped me and has yet to let go.”
For many of us who work or volunteer in the field of history, we are also gripped by the past. A place connected us to the past and hooked us for life. What was the place that made you take a vow of poverty and commit yourself to a career in history?
For me, it was The Hermitage: Home of Andrew Jackson outside of Nashville, TN. As a fourth grader, I loved reading a kid’s biography of Rachel Jackson. (Can you say History Geek?) After seeing me reading it for the umpteenth time, my mother said, “You know we can go to her house, right?” I made her take me right away.
It blew me away to know I was walking on ground where my favorite heroine walked. I remember visiting her grave and thinking it was so cool that I was actually standing above her (ok, I was a bit of a morbid kid). Once I found out you could work at a historic site, I was hooked for life.
So, Tim said he hoped his book will inspire other public historians to tell their stories. What stories can you tell? What special historic place helped hook you? What meaningful experience have you had while engaging the public with history? What artifact can you not believe you got to touch (with white gloves, of course)?
Think about how you can tell your stories. Publish a column in your newsletter. Put them on a blog. Submit them to your newspaper. Let’s follow Tim’s lead and share our “history geek” stories to help show the public that history is anything but boring! After all, in what other field can you receive a grizzly in the mail?
Bethany L. Hawkins is the Program Manager for AASLH.