100 Years To The Day

Lost To History

Fact: this blog is the property of a history geek. I don’t tend to fall down rabbit holes, I tend to move in and make myself at home. In the spring of 2018, a summer full of interpretive programs remained ahead of me, and I wanted to shake up the topics to talk about more than Lewis and Clark. I know, why would I ever pick another topic besides by most favorite history topic, but the cool part of history is that there is always more to the story than the history books tell us. I’m a fan girl for primary sources (see Hidden Beauty from March 2012), and archives are my heart throb (see The Other National Archives from November 2021).

One historic fact I know is that there is never enough time at any archive. I suppose if I had a hundred years, I might be able to read every document, view every photo, and visualize every moment saved for people like me to search and discover what happened in the past, or perhaps one hundred years ago. Consider how intangible current technology is: we don’t save the photos on our digital cameras that we don’t like, we delete tweets, and we can lose all our documents with a failed hard drive. Many young people cannot even read letters and other primary sources, including the Declaration of Independence (see On the Other Side Of The Hidden Map from September 2022), because they cannot read cursive. We may be losing history and all those valuable files to “improved” technology.

Memorable Memorial

One of the best ways to experience history today is to visit the places where history happened. Whether it’s a Civil War site (see Living Deadly History from May 2021) or the scene of Manifest Destiny run amok (see Cornered On A Hilltop from July 2013), experiencing history may trump reading about it, and I ought to have a general idea as I’ve done both, a lot. For example, I visited the North Dakota National Archives in Bismarck from the time the door opened until the final “wrap-it-up” call while I was microfisching. I spent the day discovering the facts about nurses, doughboys, and the people who served in World War I from the thirty-ninth state. Oh, the stories they could tell.

You may or may not know that throughout the United States, every American Legion post is named for an individual who died during the first World War. A few have been renamed for casualties of later wars from the same community, some are named for women who made same sacrifice in Europe as their male counterparts, and some legion posts have lost the connection of their namesakes. One that is still intact is the Edgar M. Boyd post in Williston, North Dakota. On 19 July of 2018, I stand at the entrance of a far north American Legion post and leave a bouquet of flowers for Mr. Boyd as a remembrance for his sacrifice exactly one hundred years prior – a date I would not have known were it not for reading a bit of history at the state archives. Seeing places and reading about the stories behind them make a memorable combination.

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