Monday, May 20, 2024

VINTAGE VOICES You’ve got a (hi)story to tell

by Sara Jane Ruggles
| May 3, 2020 1:10 AM

As this is my inaugural column in the Press, I’d like to briefly introduce myself.

Many readers may know me from the lovely introduction written by Coeur d’Alene Press Staff Writer Devin Weeks on April 23. As Devin stated, I am an independent public historian living in Coeur d’Alene with my husband and two little girls. As a public historian, it is my mission to help local residents and their families create customized projects that capture their unique stories.

This column is also intended to inspire you and help you break down the intimidating task of writing your memories. Together, we will break this task down into bite-sized writing activities. These activities will yield more history in a single sitting than you even realized you could record. But first, I must address the question that many of you are asking: “What does a public historian do?”

Unfortunately, the history passed down from our elders has been largely sidelined by the instant fact-checking technologies that are at our fingertips. Where we once considered our elders as the source of all knowledge, we now type in a question and get instant answers at the click of a mouse. The more we rely on this for information, the less respect and time we devote to the knowledge our elders are waiting to pass down.

As public historians, we understand that we are living in a beautiful time, when we can use both of these sources of historical information to further enhance our understanding of the past.

History can be gleaned from both the objective facts of the events that took place in our past and the historical perspectives of our elders who experienced them. In other words, we should not seek to “fact-check” the memories of our elders, but rather use their perspectives to enhance our understanding of how the past affected individuals and lives on into our present reality. This is where you, the public, and I, the historian, come in and work together.

My job is to assist and empower the public to record their own stories and share our collective history in innovative and creative ways. There are billions of people in this world and each one of them experienced the past through a unique set of eyes. These perspectives were shaped by individual life experiences and education, making everyone’s story a unique thread in the overall tapestry that is our history.

Whether you would like the help of a professional, like myself, or you want to do it on your own, there are plenty of ways you can tackle this “rainy day” project of recording your story. And with the heavy clouds of quarantine still lingering, there is no time like the present to get started.

Stay tuned for my upcoming columns, where I will share tips with you for recording and preserving your story. Enjoy this journey and know that one day, your stories will be a greater gift to your loved ones than you will ever know.

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To learn more about my education, resume, and professional services, feel free to visit my website:

Next time: Use your recipe box to write down memories