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Making history come alive in Logan County through site interpreters

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[January 29, 2013]  The Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society welcomed Ann Moseley, assistant director of the Lincoln Heritage Museum, to the society's Jan. 21 meeting. Moseley discussed an initiative she has begun at Lincoln College to offer a class on site interpretation. Moseley calls it "making history come alive in Logan County."

Moseley is crafting the site interpretation class and will teach it. The new class will prepare students to step into the persona of a 19th-century citizen at a historic site, perhaps a museum or a park, and interact with visitors. The class will be part of the new four-year bachelor's degree program in the Lincoln College Fine Arts Department.

After completing the class, a student will be a certified site interpreter through the National Association of Interpreters, a national nonprofit. The certification is called a certified interpretive guide. Ann Moseley is a certified interpretive guide and has also achieved advanced certification as an interpretative trainer through NAI. This latter training allows her to teach the CIG class.

The initial assignment in the class will be the choice of a citizen to portray from Abraham Lincoln's era. Once a person is selected, research will be necessary, involving such diverse resources as census records, diaries and newspaper articles from the time period -- anything that will help flesh out the ordinary citizen so someone from the 21st century can step into their shoes.

Additional topics will involve proper 19th-century language, appropriate attire to the person's station in life and even an authentic accent.

Site interpreters who slip into a first-person role, that is, one who will stay in character with no reference to another time, will learn how to react to tourist questions and still remain in character. Understandably, for a first-person interpreter to remain in their role and time period, it will require extensive research into the history of the era.

Moseley is excited about the prospects of teaching the class. "I have a passion for the mid-19th century," she said, "and the guide class will be a way to share it with the community."

The class will be available to LC students as well as members of the community. Historians will be invited to lecture on the time period being studied.

"A site interpreter makes history come alive," said Moseley. She speaks from experience, having portrayed an acquaintance of Mary Todd Lincoln at various historic sites in Springfield. Her husband, Mike, is also a site interpreter, having portrayed a Springfield resident who was employed as a porter at the Old State Capital during Lincoln's time there as a lawyer.

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Moseley also discussed the fall 2013 move of the Lincoln Heritage Museum from the McKinstry Library building to its new space in the Lincoln Center on the Lincoln College campus.

The much larger two-level area will allow the display of additional articles from the museum's collection than is possible now. There will also be stages that will allow living history presentations about Abraham Lincoln's time in central Illinois. It is hoped that the enhanced area will allow and encourage more community involvement in the museum.

As Moseley pointed out, "Abraham Lincoln loved to study history. He thought it was important to learn from the past."

The Lincoln College certified interpretive guide class will start in the fall semester of 2013. For more information, contact Ann Moseley at the Lincoln Heritage Museum on the Lincoln College campus.

For volunteer opportunities at the museum, contact Moseley or Ron Keller, museum director.

Keller, in a moment of unbridled enthusiasm said, "The Lincoln Heritage Museum rocks!" That sort of ebullience makes the museum a must visit for Lincoln residents and visitors to central Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln walked.


For more information:

Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society

Lincoln Heritage Museum

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