Earlier this week, I read Andrew Pegoda’s post about the difference between historians and history buffs, a point that I found really fascinating. This is a debate that is constantly in the back of mind, because for the longest time, I didn’t really know the difference.
My high school history courses were quite literally being taught to a test – the AP tests, to be exact – so I can’t say that I had a representative high school experience. But part of my job as a student was to memorize facts and dates and figures because those were the details I needed to pass. I loved history not just because I loved memorizing those things, but because I like the larger narratives to which they were attached.
I definitely considered myself a history buff, because that was all I had to go off of. And being a history buff (at least in my family) was celebrated and even encouraged. As a group of trivia enthusiasts, my siblings and I wanted to find out these fun facts in order to increase our knowledge. I voraciously read everything I could get my hands on (you should check out my #shelfies) and brought myself to lectures to learn more. I wore “buff” as a badge of honor, because I assumed that to be a historian required you to be a history buff.
Now, I know the difference. (For starters, historians have a lot more work to do, if my assignments this semester have been any indication.) But I still love hanging out with the history buffs. They’re the people who keep me grounded. Especially on Tumblr, they’re the ones who remind me of how much fun the people and groups I study are. They remind me to enjoy what I’m doing, that memorizing those dates and random details about people was part of what got me here and what made me want to study my field.
Obviously, I’m not quite a historian yet – I’m in that transformation phase that Andrew talks about in his post. I’m learning to process that “raw” data and make something of it. While I’m still a master at trivia and somewhat of a history buff, I’m invested in learning more. I’m invested in discovering how historians research and make arguments based on their findings. I’m invested in analyzing how we talk about historic events and the collective remembrance in our presentations. I like finding these stories and weaving them together to tell greater ones about who we are and how we’ve developed. I want to learn how to be a historian, because that’s what I’ve loved about history since as far back as I remember.
And that’s kinda what this blog is about – the process of me learning how to become a historian: all the twists and turns that come with it, rough edges and all.