History Soup… A Recipe Three Workshops designed to help Bedford’s Museum and Library (Staff and Volunteers) become experts in the art ofresearching, writing and teaching Bedford history…and of helping visitors get a taste of the local culture and heritage
First, let’s see what’s needed…• Inspiration (Hunger, Creativity, Curiosity)• Imagination (Love and Passion)• Information (Ingredients)…(records, journals, letters, family trees ) ( carrots, potatoes, and chicken)
What is the point of trying to prepare a special Bedford history soup?• Children might like to taste it…(and their teachers, too)• Tourists might like to purchase a bowl or two• Local folks might like to get together and have the fun of cooking and eating a special local concoction• People working at the museum (or library) might like to find a way to share (the information, archives, books, etc.)
Inspiration… To fix a special dish for company, we cannot just serve up an old can of Campbell soup…• An inspired cook will pour creativity and love into the process…• An inspired historian will breathe life into an otherwise lifeless set of facts and figures, allowing the reader to feel right at home in the setting and closely acquainted with each of the characters
Imagination – A secret to award-winning cuisine, and to the best writing of well known authors• A good cook is curious to find out what might happen if he combines the ingredients in a new way.• A good story-teller or writer of history (including fiction and non-fiction) is curious to figure out about all the circumstances and possible factors that might have influenced the characters in his narrative.
Ingredients - Information• A good cook knows which ingredients to use, and can put in just the right amount of spices, broth, vegetables, meat, etc.• A good historian knows how to find the right information ( and how to be selective and discriminating)…having done careful “shopping” through newspapers, court records, journals, reference books, and scholarly publications.
Following directions• For master chefs, directions are unnecessary. (He already knows the tricks of the trade)• For beginners (who don’t know how to boil water), some directions (recipes) are helpful!• For college history professors and for authors of best selling biographies (like David McCullough or Bud Robertson), the skills of historical methodology have already been mastered.• For the rest of us, some instruction in the best practices of researching, organizing, and writing history could be of tremendous value.
Results – After planning, shopping, chopping, simmering, tasting, and stirring… a wonderful, edible concoction…• Bedford History Results – After asking good questions, searching for possible answers, reviewing all the local literature and archives, becoming familiar with all the scholarship (non-fiction articles and books), interviewing eye-witnesses and everyone who might remember, and spending hours trying to write things into a comprehensible narrative… there will be several exciting projects either completed or underway… such as…• Exhibits, pamphlets, guides to collections, articles in newsletters or journals, and, quite possibly, a core group of well trained volunteers (Community Historians?) who can continue this and other projects on into the future!