My love of early American history began as a young girl growing up in Virginia, where I could readily see the roots of our current politics and freedoms all around me. Several years later, that adoration of the past has only gotten stronger. I am an incoming college sophomore where I study history, political science, and geology, and I chose to intern at Harpers Ferry this summer in an effort to connect what I love about the past to a real working environment. Within my first week here, however, I realized that my first experience with living history would become much more than I expected.
As an interpreter in many different exhibits, like the Dry Goods and Provost Marshal’s Office, I had the opportunity to talk to people of all ages, from all over the world; but I have done much more than just talk to people here at Harpers Ferry. The first time I saw a child’s eyes light up when they finally found something they could connect with, I understood the responsibility and weight of my role as an interpreter of the past. To not only rely on historical information, but the meanings of that information on our lives today, was a tremendous gift. I have been both a teacher and a student this summer, because I have told the stories of the townspeople’s lives and finally understood why those seemingly-random anecdotes have an eye-opening way of painting a picture of what their lives were really like. I have researched and put together park programs and information, learned to use historic weaponry and technology, improved my public speaking skills, and gained valuable insight into my abilities to change people’s lives through the preservation of history. As our supervisor says, I have “lived life on the fantastic level” here at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.