Getting Up Close and Personal with History

Pistol 2Andrea here, thinking today about history. Those of you who read our blog regularly know how passionate all the Wenches are about history—not the dull, dry textbook litany of facts and dates that make most students fall asleep in school, but the myriad visceral experiences that make the past really come alive.

Recent posts here showed Christina sitting in a Viking longboat and Nicola exploring an historic castle. Seeing and touching history sparks a sense of wonder and excitement. Getting a glimpse of what people ate and wore . . . what their houses looked like . . . appreciating the details of their timepieces and personal jewelry. I find that helps me imagine what people in past were thinking; what mattered to them; what sparked a sense of wonder for them.

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A Touch of Magic!

JE press 1Andrea here, musing today about making things by hand, and the tactile and visual pleasures of connecting with three dimensions in this digital age. It seems that more and more institutions of learning, from school classrooms to museums of every discipline, are recognizing the importance of object-based learning. Engaging with an actual “concrete” (okay, not literally) entity brings a subject—be it history, art, technology, the natural sciences—magically alive in ways that transcends a computer screen image or photographic reproduction.

JE press 2I recently had a wonderful first-hand experience in watching this happen. In September, I teamed up to do a special project with a professor who teaches undergraduates at my alma mater how to print on an old-fashioned printing press. It involved creating a keepsake for an alumni gathering, and as it was my bright idea to print it by hand with real type and quality paper—even though 700 copies were needed—the two of us had a LOT time to chat in the press room as we cranked out the pieces one by one. (I fell in love with letterpress printing as a freshman, and did a lot of it, so it was great fun for me to get ink on my hands again after so many years.)

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Speaking Objectively . . .

Bastille key 2Andrea/Cara here, musing today about objects. Allow me to explain . . . The other day I was rooting through my shelves looking for a reference book when I stopped to thumb through a completely different book. (This happens a lot to me!) The History of the World in 100 Objects, is a great favorite of mine. Written by the head of the British Museum, it’s a delightful and fascinating look at how individual objects, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, tell such grand stories, and can be such a powerful way to bring history alive.

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