In March, The C.O.H.O.R.T.’s inaugural month, contributors examine early influences on why they decided to pursue history as a field of expertise and career, in the “Why History?” series.
Most kids are raised going on family vacation road trips. We have all seen National Lampoon’s Vacation, reminiscent of being squished in a car for days in pursuit of the ultimate theme park family experience. Instead, I was loaded in a minivan with my two sisters, my aunt and uncle, and my dad in pursuit of American history. One of the earliest memories I have of these family vacations is standing in an open field at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana, reading a plaque about battle movements by Custer’s 7th Cavalry and the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes.
What is probably the most striking difference between my childhood vacations and those of other young Americans my age (besides the obvious lack of theme parks) was that I learned a lot, more than I ever could have in school. I relished spending time with my family each summer. I couldn’t get enough of the stories and legends brought to life in front of me in actual places. To stand where others stood during moments in history that shaped the face of the American identity was life changing.
I look back on who that little girl was, exploring the Wild West, standing on top of Independence Rock, hiking the trail up Diamond Head, or standing on the Four Corners Monument, and can’t help but think how lucky she was. It has directly shaped the person I am today and the interests I still hold. My dad had us keep trip journals (which if I am being completely honest, my dad finished for us by the end of those trips) so we could remember what we saw and how we felt as we encountered each new thing. The direction of my career (studying history and working in museums), my love for travel, my desire to learn about different cultures, and my endless yearning to understand the world around me all stem from this one place.
So to answer the question “Why History?” my response is “Why Not History?” My father understood that to make a human-being compassionate and understanding, that you must see, feel, and learn history. Don’t get me wrong, we spent plenty of time at Disneyland, but the moments that I attribute to why I am who I am, lay in those family vacations of two weeks piled in a car in search of America.
Lindsey Goodwin is currently the digital learning coordinator at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. She received her M.A. in history from the University of San Diego, with a concentration in public history, where she completed her master’s thesis titled, “Conviction Without Trial: Lynching in Mississippi, A Century of Terror 1865-1965.” Lindsey received her B.A. in history and art history from UCLA. She specializes in topics ranging from British and American history to family genealogy research, as well as museum and public history interpretation. In her free time, Lindsey travels often throughout the U.S. and internationally with her husband to continue her education of history and culture.