Keep Calm…and Don't be a Jerk, ok?

Category Archives: history

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, which as I discovered yesterday is a desirable way to write Blog posts according to the “slow blogging movement.” (google it, it’s very interesting.)

I’ve been thinking about the internet, and facebook and sharing and living. We live in a time of unprecedented information and access. Especially if you live in the 1st world. It has never been easier or faster to find and get online. Quite a few people have the internet in their pocket via the smartphone. (myself included.) I love the internet.

I distinctly remember not having it as a little girl. We may have had dial-up,  but that was mostly so mom and dad could check their e-mail..I think. Us kids had a few simple games we played via floppy disc, and later CD-Roms, but that’s about it. I distinctly remember turning 13 and sitting down with my Dad at the computer to create an e-mail address. ( I don’t remember who or if I e-mailed anyone in those early days, but it was a huge step in my book. Now I had an e-mail address, now I could do stuff online! And I did, I made all kinds of websites with freewebs, I learned all about Ireland intent on becoming an Irish citizen. (Even going so far as to look up the legal requirements to become a citizen. My plan was to marry an irishman, that seemed the easiest route.) We got highspeed internet when I was about 11. I had a Xanga blog, and a Myspace. I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was 16, and it was a tracphone, I could play snake on it and make really quick phone calls. I got a facebook account when I was 18. Oh how things have changed.

So here’s the thing about facebook, I hear and read a lot about how facebook is bad, facebook is addicting, facebook is a lie, facebook  invades your privacy. People who spend time on Facebook are avoiding reality, setting unrealistic expectations, etc etc etc. This all may be true for some people. But those people will find things like that in their lives facebook or not. I for one love Facebook, I am delighted that I live in a time where keeping up with friends and family is as easy as clicking a button, I’m delighted that Facebook allows me to share aspects of my life that no one would see otherwise, it is a wonderful tool. Yes Facebook shares your information with advertisers…but uh. that’s nothing new. Everybody does that, it’s part of being online. Who cares??! Assume as soon as you go online companies are collecting information, and then using that information to create new products. So what? They have families to feed too. There comes a point where you have to accept that A. our lives are not very private anymore, B. Nobody actually really cares what you’re doing most of the time. If you want to share lots of boring vacation photo’s, do it! Someday you’ll look back on that and be glad you did. Facebook is an instant scrapbook.

Facebook is a time-suck, yeah if you don’t have any self-control. Facebook isn’t making you stay on and read your newsfeed, at all times you wield the power to close your browser and turn off the computer, don’t blame facebook because you can’t quit. Facebook users avoid reality. Maybe, but not anymore than anyone else browsing the internet, playing video games, or watching movies, or reading books. That is one of the most beautiful things about the internet, it allows us to step outside of ourselves, outside of our small lives and tiny towns and become world travelers, to become scholars, and artists, it allows us to explore our creativity, our spirituality, our sense of humor, our taste buds. It challenges the way you see and interact with the world, it brings the world together in what is all at the same time a small but infinite space.

I get really tired of reading/seeing articles and posts about the evils of facebook, the evils of the internet, the evils of photographing your life. Urging people to ditch the internet and live in the real world, condescending to those of us who value Facebook and the internet. (Though ironically all these articles about “unplugging” are online…) Everything in moderation. What these articles are addressing I think is a personal disorder, the inability to self-discipline, which is not a problem for everyone. If you have a touch of common sense and self-control I think you can handle being online.

This is why I use Facebook, why I don’t mind putting parts of my life online; Ever since I was girl I thought it to be quite important to document my life as a normal non-famous human being for my children and grandchildren, for future historians. I’ve kept an irregular journal on paper and online since I was about 13, with the intentions of passing it on to my children. (When I do research about these people who’s houses I interpret in the summer, who’s lives I represent, I would LOVE to be their facebook friend). Facebook, the internet, journals, photography, the computer, all of these things allow me to store my life experiences, my memories out there in the wild world so some day when I’m gone my Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren will still be able to get to know me. They will feel a connection to something bigger than themselves. I have always had this strange strong sense of connection to both those who came before me and those who will come after. So before you think of Facebook and the internet as the big bad wolf, think about the future, think about the historians of 2213, is it really such a bad thing that humanity as a whole is able to capture life and living in these moments of history? I think not. And I for one will continue to share, post and upload these bits and pieces of my life.


I loathe history.

I know..I know, that seems ironic and maybe even hypocritical of me given that I am going on my 6th year as a Historic Interpreter, and I love my job! But allow me to explain.

Growing up, history was never one of my favorite subjects…those thick books with all those dates and wars and presidents and politics. I thought that’s what history was, my Dad loved it! And he would carry on about how great and interesting history was, and we’d go on vacation to historic sites and he would read every single plaque and sign….You see, what my dad failed to teach me in my  early schooling that there are different kinds of history. I spent YEARS loathing history as it is taught for school education. Then I turned 18, and in my search for summer employment I stumbled across a job on Mackinac Island as a Historic House Interpreter, I looked over the job description, you get to cook over an open fire, do crafts, blacksmith, talk to people, dress up in costume etc, it paid just above minimum wage. Sounds good! So I applied not thinking I’d get it. Well then I got an interview! So my mom and I drove to Lansing through terrible icy roads. The interview I thought went well, but they told me 40 people applied for 5 positions…I was sure my chances were slim. A month or so later, I received a letter in the mail, what do you know, I got the job!

I called my dad to tell him, he said congrats, then laughed and laughed and laughed…his daughter, who hates history, was going to be a historic interpreter…

Well Dad, as it turns out, there is a lot more to history then dates, wars, presidents and politics. There were lives to be lived, food to be cooked and preserved, tools to be crafted, clothes to be made, goods to be bought or traded, houses to be built, food to be planted, animals to raise…well you get the idea. My point being, human beings are so much more than just a few key dates, our history is in our culture, in the WAY that we do things, not just what a few “important” people were doing.

We are doing our children, and ourselves, a great disservice by disconnecting the events of history from the daily life of history. Living history is a vital connection to the past, it allows us modern people to peek into the past, if just for a moment, to imagine life in the 20th, 19th, 18th, etc centuries.

“Living history can be a tool used to bridge the gap between school and daily life to educate people on historical topics. Living history is not solely an objective retelling of historical facts. Its importance lies more in presenting visitors with a sense of a way of life, than in recreating exact events, accurate in every detail.” – David Thelen

Now that I know there is more to history, particularly a history that I can relate to, I find it rather important to share that revelation with as many people as I can. Thankfully, I am a historic house interpreter, I talk to thousands of people a year about 18th and 19th century daily life, and love to see that “AhHa!” moment when they get it, they connect somehow to the past. Like the motto of Colonial Williamsburg “That the future may learn from the past.” Living history is of the utmost importance in teaching 21st century people a little bit of history.

So for all of you who think that history is boring. You’ve just been trying to learn it all the wrong way! Books are great, but a well-informed historical interpreter actually DOING something is even better.

Go out this summer and actually experience history, there are living history sites all over the country!

**shameless plug** though, Mackinac State Historic Parks runs some really top-notch sites as well, with well trained interpreters, full programming representing life for a variety of different people that spans the 18th-early 20th century at all of their sites. And for those of you in Michigan, it does wonders to help support Michigan’s economy.