Monday, September 30, 2013

Inspiring Engagement with Archives

Last week, three students walked up to me.
"Ms. Mannon. Your presentation last week was interesting. We decided to look for diaries at antique shops like you did and we found one from 1910."
Students hold copy of 1910 diary that
they found in an antique shop
I felt the smile spreading on my face. "You did?!"
They told me that the diary belonged to  George C. Silsby of Vermont and they had researched him on to find out more.
"What do you plan to do with the diary from here?" I asked. They told me that they wanted to research more about their Vermonter.
I made a copy of the diary and have begun reading it myself.
January 2, 1910 - "Went up to the barn and look at the cattle & horses. All looking well. Snowing."
The familiarity of the words excites me -- the weather, farming -- These three girls are starting on a journey that I've taken so many times now.
January 11, 1910 - "I am 52 years old to day [sic]. got a letter from home. been a cold day but fine & clear."
There may be no train crashes in this diary. Maybe this man is less well-known than the town pharmacist. Yet, my students are delving into a mystery. We already have a name, a birthdate and setting. I can't wait to see what they discover!
"Let me know if you need help with the research, girls."


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