Lightbulb Moments for Class of 2013

At the keynote address for the 2013 Developing History Leaders @SHA, Katherine Kane of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center asked the Class of 2013 for their “Lightbulb Moments”–the time that the history light went off for them. Below are their responses.

  • Reading about Egyptian archaeology in National Geographic in 4th grade. I decided to become and archaeologist. (And yes, this did pretty directly lead to becoming a curator at a Native American museum, through lots of steps along the way…)
  • A visit to Fort Necessity (NPS) site at age 10 or 12, with a family friend. Historic site, living history interpreter, original object, sensory experience of smoke and sound from a musket-firing. Being in a place where someone I knew (George Washington) was in a pickle, and survived.
  • Summer intern at Dallas Historical Society–a job I applied for in order to not work food service or retail that summer. Going through the stacks, finding documents signed by Sam Houston, and realizing this could be my life.
  • Internship at the Indiana Historical Society and having a researcher use a collection I had processed for the first time. Doing an exhibit and having people really respond to it and the thesis presentation lecture.
  • Chance to work with original primary documents, rare books, and manuscripts in college inspired me to learn how to preserve them and share with others. Also visited lots of historic sites and museums on family vacations–fun times 🙂
  • My entree into administration came out of a simple assignment to outline the steps to complete one task. In order to give perspective, I sketched a vision for a radically different program. My boss took one look and shifted me to an assignment which eventually led to my administrative role.
  • A visit to the Fort Clatsop National Memorial as a young boy. The physical space & sensory experience of the reconstructed fort made real the Lewis and Clark expedition and showed me it was possible to see the past and experience it first-hand.
  • The realization that I wanted to work with teaching kids history without being a history teacher. I wanted to be able to get kids excited about history and love it as much as I do, and change the idea that history is boring.
  • The spark was three months providing visitor services at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Facilitating connections to those places was an energizing and deeply profound experience and validated the cumulative life experiences I had had up to that point in time.
  • Working in a bookstore & helping people find information to change their lives.
  • Accidentally participated in Student Conservation Association program in 1993 and had the opportunity to work at Gettysburg National Military Park. Working directly with the public at a historical resource was a major turn-on that directed me away from becoming a teacher in the public schools.
  • Living in Philadelphia during the Bicentennial at the age of 5-8; Mercer Museum curatorial volunteering when I was 13.
  • Our family vacations always included museums, historic sites, & parks. I’ve always been good with history and went with (as a career choice) my strength.
  • When I was 14, I went on a tour at a historic house museum on Cape Cod., The house was empty (no furniture) while the museum was being reinterpreted. But the tour guide used material culture to help us learn about the original inhabitants (they were peeling back the wallpaper to the original). The first owner was a ship captain and they took us upstairs and we looked out the windows to see that the front yard was landscaped into the prow of a ship. I had never realized that we could learn from things and I was hooked.
  • Mine was not a lightbulb, but a slow indoctrination from a childhood spent at museums and collectors’ houses learning American history through objects.
  • (1) Seeing the ruby slippers: history can be cool. (1a) Gettysburg: the power of history’s presence. (2) Processing collections at the Mathers: someone’s job is to handle really cool old stuff.  (3) Bartending near a political meeting where history was being distorted to further an agenda–enraged, motivated to use history to counter.
  • I was awaiting deployment as a Peace Corps volunteer and was offered an internship with the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation. I had the opportunity to help with the analysis and management of a new park, and realized that there was an alternative to academia. (I had not heard much about public history…)
  • My transformative experience began with my grandmother’s stories which made me fall in love with history. But it evolved with my 8th grade history teacher Mr. Richardson and his way of engaging us with history that made me want to do that too.

What was your “lightbulb” moment with history? How has it impacted your career path?

Posted on November 4, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Lightbulb Moments for Class of 2013.

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