A practitioner of “living history” recounts, among odd bits of America’s past, some of his life story so far.
This personal take on the art of historiography is about the professional career of Grove (co-author: The Museum Educator’s Manual, 2009), who is currently chief of “museum learning” at the National Air and Space Museum. The author first tasted living history at Colonial Williamsburg and learned how to mount interactive museum presentations at Washington’s Smithsonian Institution, where he was once able to sneak a ride atop a refurbished high-wheel bicycle. We hear of notables, like Marcus Garvey and John Brown, who are represented in the National Portrait Gallery, where Grove also assisted. He also offers a history of the gallery’s venerable building and a chronicle of the goings-on at Harpers Ferry. In the Museum of American History’s “Hands on History Room,” Grove was able to demonstrate the mechanics of a cotton gin and tell how conservators tend to the original Stars and Stripes. He joined the Missouri Historical Society to celebrate the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s journey of discovery. Thus, we are introduced to legendary Sacagawea, mourn over the murdered buffalo and hear about the smelly grizzly pelt required for a display. The author chronicles his presentation of instructive relics at the National Air and Space Museum and provides some information about how Charles and Anne Lindbergh prepared for their adventures. Though he’s not fond of battlefield re-enactments, Grove thoroughly enjoys re-creating the past with appropriate objects. Essentially about the author’s career in educating with artifacts, his account makes snippets of American history accessible to casual readers, who may learn of the utility of mules, the history of airmail and such miscellanea.
Touches of American history, up close and personal, from an educator’s scrapbook.