Andrew Prapuolenis: Public History Research for the Illinois Distributed Museum (F20)

My personal interest in history has been with me since I can remember. Family stories and curiosity always led me to asking more questions and seeking more answers. Discovering answers and understanding to events, plus the people who affected them is always rewarding. When it comes to public history, many times a more personal experience develops. While learning about people involved in events of the past, one often arrives at discovering things indirectly related, which is often exciting. Arriving at the University of Illinois and having the chance to work with the Illinois Distributed Museum was a perfect match for me.

The chance to use my interests for the Illinois Distributed Museum was stimulating experience. The experience to dig through archives and apply what I discovered to more than just my own personal knowledge showed me the value in research into public history. Archival work is a different experience when much of the material is personal, on top of educational. I found this work to be a more rewarding experience overall. Working with primary sources directly is always interesting as it can vary wildly. Sometimes it’s an article other times it can be a personal diary. The variety is quite expansive.

Researching exhibits for the Illinois Distributed Museum showed me how exploring the past of my new community can be unique. Learning about discoveries and how the people went about making their discoveries at the University put a new perspective on history for me. It blended much of what I had learned already with cultural, economic, and diplomatic history. Helping to develop lasting markers for events and people at the University I think is important. Keeping people informed is one of the values of history and public history focuses heavily on that aspect.

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