By Pamela Pacelli, Personal Historian
President, Verissima Productions
So you’re doing a personal history for someone and they want to write about their grandmother who was the first woman to vote in her tiny Kansas town. Or, you’re interviewing a 90-year-old man from Pennsylvania whose father fought in the First World War 100 years ago. How important is it for you to do research on the suffrage movement in Kansas in 1918 or on Pennsylvania militias?
Very important. If you don’t know the context, you can’t ask the questions that will elicit the deepest and most thoughtful responses from your subject, or to place those responses in the broader picture of the times in which they lived. If you don’t make yourself familiar with the history of the War in Vietnam or Afghanistan, how can you ask about their effect on the lives of your subject and his/her family? While someone might not have certain things at the top of their memory, “contextual prompts” are likely to bring forth memories and associations that have never been mined before. You’ll then be able to help them create a work that will place them squarely in history –and that personal history will leave a deep legacy for future readers.
In the spirit of the last days of American History month, here are 8 blogs I have found to be useful and stimulating to my work. Readers, add your favorites to the mix in the comments section!