Raising Interested People – Part 3, Tangible History

By Michael Morgan

“Only Interested People are Interesting” ~ Jeff Cooper

Spinosaur aegypticus invaded my home one Saturday afternoon thanks to Heritage Auctions’ Nature & Science department. The tooth fragments that were given out to promote an upcoming auction joined a small collection of native Texas fossils on my daughter’s keepsake shelf.

GIANT CARNIVEROUS TEETH - Spinosaur aegypticus

GIANT CARNIVEROUS TEETH – Spinosaur aegypticus

Several summers spent abroad have added their share of knick-knacks to her collection. These small mementos of visits to other countries will refresh her recollections of these adventures every time they are dusted.What do all of these things have in common? They are bits of tangible history linked together by the story of a person’s life.

History you can hold in your hand carries a meaning that can never be conveyed by any other media. Replicas of historical devices provide direct experience that ties the modern person to their ancestors.

One of the first books I read to my daughter after she graduated from Dr. Seuss was “Little house in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. For the young whippersnappers in the audience, this book is the prequel to the book “The Little House on the Prairie” that later became a TV series. The entire series consists of 9 books, and they are well worth the time.

“Big Woods” contains a chapter that describes how Pa cleaned his muzzleloading rifle after a day hunting, cast his own bullets on the fireplace hearth, and reloaded the gun before hanging it on the hooks above the cabin door. I own a muzzleloader similar to the one described in the book, and my daughter expressed an interest in it, so we took it to the range. She learned how to safely load and fire it. After we returned home she helped me clean it, and put it away.

On another occasion she expressed an interest in archery, so with the help of a generous coworker who supplied me with some bamboo, we made arrows in the Seminole two-fletch style and took up archery.

(By the way Generous Coworker, I need more bamboo, please.)

The point I’m trying to make is that kids will gladly share a grown-up’s passion for “old stuff” if they can fit it into a context meaningful to them. I can recall being given several boxes of old coins when I was a kid. The donor always said something like “This is my coin collection, and I thought you might like to have it.”

I looked at those coins off and on over the years, but they had no real meaning for me because I could not relate them to anything. Most of the time I could tell what country they came from, but that was it. I lost interest pretty quick, and those coins are still in a box somewhere.

The things I developed a true passion for were the things where an adult spent time to teach me about the topic instead of just showing me an object. If you have a collection of “old stuff”, share it with a young person. Make sure to share your knowledge as well.

Your knowledge is the most valuable part of the experience. It makes the physical object important to the person you are sharing it with.

Our hobbies grow when we make the effort to educate people who have little or no knowledge of our enthusiasms. New collectors add value to our collections through increased demand, and our kids become interested in learning about something real instead of wasting their time plugged in.

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