Sensing the Past

During my senior year in college, one of my history professors returned a paper with an A grade but a cautionary comment: “This is a well-organized, clearly-written paper with a convincing argument — but where are all the people?”

This was my first introduction to social history, and it’s informed my approach to the past ever since. My goal as a historian is to understand and interpret lived human experience, as it was experienced, in a particular place and time.

Human experience is a sensory one, and the past is an emotional place. Anything that might help me recapture what the past sounded like, what it looked like, how it smelled, and what it felt like to live there and then, has value. As an oral historian, I also know the power of a human voice, and I know how the slightest shift in volume, tone or inflection can change the meaning of a story.

Source: Sensing the Past