Tangible History

I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t think I have sat down in 3 months. Emotionally sat down, I mean. And I haven’t seen the sun in 5. I am so tired. Imagine running a marathon the last four years and then right as you get to the home stretch someone lights you on fire. Welcome to the last month of senior year.

Even though I have at least 86 different responsibilities per day, I took time this week to attend a guest lecture. First of all, I just want to say that for a college student to voluntarily get out of bed earlier to attend an optional lecture is a feat unto itself. Second of all, that lecture changed my life and I need everyone to know it.

The lecture was by an Idaho native who now teaches at Harvard. You know, Harvard. That small little institution whose mediocre claim to fame is that Matt Damon was their janitor or something. She teaches history and is also responsible for inadvertently creating the most over-used phrase on Facebook. One the many books she has authored is titled Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History. She coined that phrase, and now you see it on half a million shirts, posters, and your troubling cousin Tammy’s bumper sticker. It is usually attributed to whatever white female celebrity is trending at the time. But, joke’s on Tammy, it was actually created as a title of an article about puritan funeral practices. People are so dumb. I love it.  

Anyways, that wasn’t the important thing to take away from the lecture. The lecture was about what Dr. Ulrich calls “tangible history”. As a historian, Ulrich finds her home in museums. Museums full of artifacts that represent actual ties to the past, tangible proof that it happened. She spent a large portion of the lecture talking about this group of artifacts that had no home in a museum. These were weird objects, things that hadn’t yet found their place. As I writer, I lost my mind at that. I love the idea that these decades-old objects are still waiting for their story to end.

The closer we get to graduation, the more grossly sentimental I get. And prone to using extended metaphors. The objects in Ulrich’s museums are perfect allegories for graduating seniors. All students, all people, in fact. We are all unplaced objects, waiting for the next step. Life is us constantly searching to find out right place. And yeah, some of us will never find it. But at least we still kind of find our place in what Ulrich called the “muddle,” the area in the museum where they store all the wandering objects. We fit in with the outcasts.

How’s that for sentimental?


Ashley is a senior Creative Writing major from Payette, Idaho