Monday, April 9, 2012

Who Cares About Boring Old History?

So here we are in April of 2012. Modern technology has exploded beyond anything we ever could have imagined, especially with items such as the smart phone and all the amazing and cool things it can do.
In the 1960's and '70's it seemed that whenever anyone spoke of the future - life in the 21st century - they tended to focus on space travel, flying cars, and colonizing other planets. Rare were the thoughts of hi-tech homes. Well, except for maybe 3-D television and supper-in-pill-form ("Violet! You're turning violet, Violet!").
By the way, here's an excellent blog on the subject of what the past thought of the future.
And with all of this wonderful actual "future" that now surrounds us, history is behind.
Or so one would think...
On the contrary, have you noticed that there certainly seems to be a lot of people "looking back" these days? For instance, last week the National Archives released the 1940 census.
Really? The 1940 census? Does anybody really care? I mean this is old stuff - 72 years old; no one is interested in stodgy old historical information, that's a plain and simple fact. In today's hi-tech 21st century technological world, who cares about boring old census information from 72 years ago? People are done with history. It's time to move on...

Well, according to CNN, on the second day of its release over 60 million people searched the 1940 census records within a three hour period.
Sixty million people. 
In a three hour period.
I would say there is at least a little interest in history, wouldn't you?

Over the course of the three days during the Memorial Weekend holiday, anywhere from 28,000 to 33,000 visitors pay $17.50 (for youth) to $24 (for adults) to enter Greenfield Village to see the Civil War Remembrance reenactment. Think of it: an average of around 30,000 people pay hard-earned money to walk through the gates of this famed open-air museum to see life during the Civil War for soldier and civilian come alive before their very eyes.
That's no small peanuts, doncha know. Especially given the fact that they can see most reenactments for much less or even for free.
But we do try to give the visitors their money's worth of living history when they come to Greenfield.
There is something special - almost an immersion experience - about seeing hundreds of these 'ghosts from the past' roaming in and around structures from the same era as when the Civil War took place.
Living history.

The Henry Ford Museum is hosting the Titanic Exhibit from now through September. With the 100th anniversary of the great ship striking the ice burg (April 14) and sinking (April 15) at hand, the museum and the exhibitors have gone all out to make this display as elaborate as they could, including not only actual artifacts retrieved from the ocean floor (including a shaving kit, dishware, and jewelry, amongst other things), but by recreating Titanic's grand staircase, 1st and 3rd class cabins, and even a hallway.  Because of the recurring popularity due to Robert Ballard's discovery and from the James Cameron movie, I'm sure you can rightly guess that this is a very popular destination for history buffs. Yes, I said history buffs; much to the chagrin of some, surprise of others, and delight of many, Titanic is history. And tickets to visit this historical exhibit marking its centennial has been selling out.

Stodgy, boring old history - no one except for a few, mostly old, odd balls are interested in it.
Heh heh heh...yeah, right...



Splitter226 said...

In addition to the Census records mentioned above, records relating to the Titanic have been secured by and are currently available - FREE - for a limited time. (

PvtSam75 said...

I was definitely one of those 60,000,000 searching the 1940 census! I was just talking about this with a friend who's an education major-just when you think no one's interested, there comes along a single person, maybe a few people, who love it just as much as you do. I got lucky-my oldest niece is a growing history buff.
And, as much as people hate haveing Titanic engrained in our collective memory, IT MAKES HISTORY INTERESTING. It gets you involved in personal stories, you love the clothing, and besides, everyone loves a good tragedy! I love reenacting because I can help people to enjoy history as much as I do. If I can teach something to one person, I'm happy, because that one fact they learned might turn into a new love for history.

Historical Ken said...

Exactly what I've been saying, PvtSam. Keep passing the torch!
And thanks for the info Splitter226 (I love these names!).

An Historical Lady said...

I can't get enough history...especially when the 'real life' of our present is kinda the pits! I have watched a few Titanic shoes this week, and even though I know 'all the facts', I cry again each time.
BTW, we love those shows, 'Who do you Think you are' and the one on PBS, tracing people's roots. I am never bored by the long-ago minutae of someone else's life, even though I don't know them!

Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...

I am one who will probably rejoin when the 1940 census has been indexed! Maybe I just hang out with other history lovers, but a lot of folks I know are also interested in these things. I think the internet has made research much more accessible. I remember doing ancestral research 30 years ago and spending years going through microfiche. It was a VERY slow process.


Historical Ken said...

Most of my friends are history buffs as well, but this was kind of my commentary on the way the popular media treats history.