*I say “final” knowing that I have a whole year left ahead of me.*
It is astounding and almost beyond the capabilities of this post to adequately convey how I feel about my experience and development as a historian over the past year. For that reason, I will focus on just a few (probably the most significant) points or areas of development.
If there is one way to describe my development as a first-year Master’s student, I believe it would be: amplified. Not to be dramatic, but I came into this program with a VERY specific idea of what a historian does, what I would do, and what the end result would be. Obviously I knew there would be some aspects of the experience that I couldn’t predict or prepare for, but I came in with a few preconceived notions that I did not anticipate would change.
First, I though the historian had a single, primary role: Gatekeeper. This is not to say that I thought the role of a historian was simple prior to this program. On the contrary, I thought it was of the utmost importance–protecting and keeping the historical record and conveying the discipline to whom the magic was veiled. In ways, this romanticized view I had was not necessarily untrue. However, I was wrong in thinking that all of those who sought to experience history needed to come through the historian. Is it our responsibility or duty to convey or interpret history to the public? Absolutely. But rather than being the one and only avenue to receive that information, more and more historians are working on ways to make history accessible to anyone and everyone, whether they are recognized for making said information available or not (As a public historian, you would have thought this would have been my understanding all along). So my understanding of the role of the historian has in this way, and certainly in others, been amplified. And perhaps I am a bit less selfish or expectant of recognition than I was a year ago.
Along the same line, the other area that I saw the greatest amount of development is in my understanding of the realm of historical practice and networking. Though I came into this program with the intention of being a public historian who worked to make history available in thought-provoking and accessible ways, my understanding of the disciplines and individuals that historians interacted with to collect this information was certainly flawed. Over the course of a year I have gone from seeing the historian and the practice as an “island” of sorts to one node in a network or series of networks. These networks connect with other disciplines and professionals, new areas of study and new methodologies within and outside of history, and new, innovative “ages” for history to enter. My semi-isolationist perspective upon entering this program has since been shattered entirely, and I could not be happier (I mean, how did I ever think I could become a disaster/environmental or public historian without active interdisciplinary networking?!)
Obviously these developments do not cover half of what I’ve learned about methodology or the history of history or how to write a historiography–all of which have been extremely beneficial and hopefully successful–but they do offer a glimpse into the massive changes that have occurred in my line of thinking about my role as a historian and the discipline as a whole within my one year here thus far.
Dr. Mollin told me at the end of my Senior Year of undergraduate that I would look back on each semester of graduate school and be absolutely astounded by the amount of information I had collected and learned. At the end of year one, I am happy to report that she was absolutely right.