Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Notes from a Summer Internship by History Major Stephen Bowers

There is an old saying that states, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Well, this past summer I was blessed with the opportunity to not forget my historical background but rather to live it. I could do so through the Genesee Country Museum in Mumford, NY.

At the Genesee Country Museum, as an historical interpreter, I was given several tasks on a weekly basis. One of the jobs I was given was to work on an old pioneer farmstead that was established in about 1820 in Bloomfield, NY. Here I was given chores that a typical farmer in the 19th century would’ve had to do, such as feeding the livestock, fixing the fences, or even chasing the chickens into the coop. I even learned about what plants are good to eat and which ones aren’t.

Not only was I on the farm, this summer, but I was also working in an active 19th century brewery. The original brewery was owned by Walter Grieve in Geneva, NY and pumped water directly from Seneca Lake. Though I rarely was given the opportunity to brew, I did learn an outstanding amount about the history and the importance of beer, not only in the United States but also around the world.

My last duty was in an old gunsmith shop that is from Dalton, NY. Working in this shop taught me a valuable lesson. I do not mean to sound too “right winged” but the quote goes, “The gun has played a critical role in history. An invention which has been praised and denounced, served hero and villain alike, and carries with it moral responsibility. To understand the gun, is to better understand history.” This quote certainly holds true if think about all the instrumental times in our history the gun has gotten us to where we are today (the American Revolution?).

What the Genesee Country Museum teaches so well that our history books cannot teach, but is often overlooked, is the simple idea of how people were still people 200 years ago. They lived honest lives and arguably more grueling than the ones we live today. Needless to say, I cannot fully sum this summer up in 300 words other than to say it has been the experience of a lifetime and really hope I am welcomed back as I was welcomed this year.

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