In today’s technological society, all we have to do to learn about history is sit with our laptops or television remote. It’s easily accessible, quite affordable, and very engaging. I’ve been homeschooling since 2000, so I understand the value in historical documentaries. I use them regularly with my daughter, and I really enjoy them myself! (You should see my Netflix queue!) With that in mind, I ask you a question…
Are you actively learning your local history, or are you passively participating in the versions that sell via entertainment?
One way to get out of the passive trap and into active learning – for both adults and children – is to become involved in your local historical museums and landmark sites. Whether your interests fall near the social history of your area or the battlefields of the nation, local historic sites offer many opportunities to really dig into history. And, by becoming a supporter of these sites you are helping others learn about your local history as well.
Organize a Field Trip
Museum staff and volunteers love to talk with you! Sharing their knowledge of history with the public is why they do what they do in the first place. By attending their programs and special events you are showing that their services are appreciated by the community. You are also showing others such as donors and councilmen and -women responsible for authorizing funding that the historic site in your area is a needed asset for teaching residents about local history. It’s not just your money that votes in cases like these. It’s also your presence. After all, who wants to donate or fund a facility that doesn’t attract visitors?
Be a Member
The holidays are a great time of year to show your support of a historical society or museum. And, it makes a great gift for others! Your membership fees help provide programming throughout the year, and they also help provide the resources needed by the “behind the scenes” crew of historians, archivists, and volunteers as they find new information and unique ways to present it to the community. You will impact the lives of neighbors, children, and out of town guests just by showing your support through membership.
Put on Your Volunteer Hat (or Costume)
Our schedules are packed. Life is busy. My calendar is just as full as the next full-time working, homeschooling mom with friends and family. But, believe me, volunteering is a way to shake off the troubles of the week and give back to your community. Historic sites depend on their volunteers. You are their backbone, their worker bees, and many times, their public face to the children and adults who visit. Do you shake in your boots when you think about leading a tour group? Never fear! Just like any organization, historic sites need people of all types and abilities for jobs as small as stuffing envelopes and as large as being a docent or guide. Personally, I can’t wait to get started dusting the collection at the Kelton House. Yes – I said dusting! It’s necessary, it’s needed, and it gives me the history fix I crave when I’m around pieces from the mid to late 1800s. I’ll also be involved in other activities at Kelton House and hope to be part of the next docent training in 2013, but I’ll also be taking part in small, easy, non-public volunteer activities as well.
Where Do You Start?
Is there a site that you enjoy visiting? Do you have a specific interest that you are passionate about? In Central Ohio, we have museums that range from Underground Railroad sites to toy museums. Each shares a unique view into the lives and stories of the area or subject it represents. Look at local, state, and regional tourism websites to find a location near you that you would enjoy giving your time via attendance, membership, or volunteering. I’m sure the staff will appreciate it!
Resources to find historical sites in Ohio:
Are you involved in any local historical museums or societies? I’d love to hear about your experience! Share it in the comments, and inspire others with your story!
Photo Credits: Featured photograph by Christa Richert
© 2012, Stephanie Pitcher Fishman. All rights reserved.