Hello! Recently, I have been thinking a lot about what history is relevant to me and why. Touring the Black Heritage Trail with the Branching Out Team, talking with Christine Arato from the history program, and meeting other SCA interns this week has led me to insights into my own history with history.
In all honesty, history in grade school never really caught my interest and I spent my first two years at UC Davis majoring in Biology, pre-med. Even my own family’s history of being uprooted from their homes during WWII because of their Japanese blood wasn’t really that inspiring to me. When Japanese internment exhibits and films were advertised in my JA community, my thought usually was, why do we have to talk about that dark subject again?
My attitude toward history changed however, when a mentor encouraged me to apply for a scholarship to go on the Manzanar Pilgrimage as the Manzanar Ambassador for UC Davis. Long story short, I went for a weekend with 1500 people on the pilgrimage to Manzanar National Historic Site, and the preserved features of the cultural landscape (some of which the Olmsted Center worked on!) made the story really hit home. While there, I began to realize that lessons about incarceration, rights, and discrimination are embedded in the site, and these are the lessons we need in order to address issues in our country right now. Since then, I’ve been very interested in the value of history today.
Through the course of my internship this week, I was prompted to take a step back and wonder, what exactly got me interested in history, and how can I use landscape architecture to recreate those conditions for others?
This week as I walked the Black Heritage Trail, I again noticed the power of places. I was fascinated to learn that so many houses on the North Slope of Beacon Hill were part of the Underground Railroad. As the Branching Out team and us interns finished our tour by walking through one of the dark tunnels that fugitive slaves escaped through, I felt like I had learned so much about Boston’s history.
I gained more insight into historiography from Christine Arato, the Regional Historian for the Northeast Region. During our Brown Bag this week, Christine explained the importance of places and oral histories in making history relevant. Both Christine and the other interns agreed that through illuminating one person’s story (whether a soldier, a wife, or anyone else), they felt like they could better connect with the history. As the Manzanar Ambassador for UC Davis, my role is to design programs for students to learn about Manzanar and its relevancy today. Christine was able to give me some ideas from her wealth of experience.
Lastly, Dave Barak and Emily Poore, SCA coordinators for my internship came to visit and that night we also got to meet other SCA interns in the Boston area. Many are working at parks doing interpretation programs. Their work sounds very interesting and I would like to look into it some more!
Also, in my spare time, I continued my work on the Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park maps.
In my musings this week on history, I came up with two conclusions. Places and personal stories can be powerful tools for making history relevant today.