Friday, September 15, 2017

History: It's a Family Thing

Jacob Quasius
Guest blogger Jacob Quasius was an undergraduate fellow at the David Library this summer through the Library's partnership with Lycoming College, where Jacob is now a senior.  When asked to write about his experience as a resident researcher at the David Library, he wanted to describe how he shared it with his family.

Growing up in northern New Jersey, I was naturally surrounded by history. I live an hour away from New York City, two hours from Philadelphia, a half hour from Morristown, etc., so for as long as I can remember, summer always included at least one “history trip,” whether it was a day trip or a weekend excursion. Even our “normal” vacations typically involved a stop at a museum or a historically significant site. As a future history major, I loved every minute of it.
From an early age, I was an active participant in historical discussions, frequently pestering the tour guides and reenactors with my questions, while other kids my age paid no attention. As I got older, I became increasingly interested in the American Revolution. Trips with my family to Boston, Philadelphia, Trenton, Morristown and Valley Forge piqued my interest, and this interest has continued to this day.  (My friends have gotten used to me pulling over to the side of the road to read historical markers.) 
My parents and grandparents noticed my interest in history, and always encouraged me to expand on my historical knowledge. When I was still in high school, my Grandma gave me her collection of books, covering a wide variety of historical topics, and I frequently used gift cards to add books to this collection, including David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing and David McCullough's 1776. These books later became the inspiration for the project I researched this summer at the David Library, which is centered on militia involvement in the New Jersey campaign of 1776/1777.
Now busy with college, I have less time to go on historical trips with my family, but it doesn't mean I've stopped exploring.  There may be fewer of those family trips, but thankfully, there have been a number of trips sponsored by Lycoming College.  Even during my month as a fellow at the David Library, I had the opportunity to take trips to nearby Washington Crossing Historic Park, Valley Forge National Historic Site, and some of the many historic sites in Philadelphia.
While I value the opportunities my school and this fellowship have given me to explore my passion for history, I couldn’t help missing my family enjoying it with me. Luckily, near the end of my fellowship, I had the opportunity to share the David Library of the American Revolution with my family. When they visited me at the library, I felt like I was able to offer my parents and grandparents the same exciting feeling of making new discoveries that they provided to me throughout my childhood.
After introducing them to the David Library reading room and showing them the online catalog,  each pursued an area of special interest.  My grandparents looked at how everyday citizens in the Early Republic petitioned their elected officials.  Mom looked at New Jersey census records, searching for family names with which she was familiar, while Dad perused the Washington Papers. 
The David Library is a wonderful place that I grew to love through my fresh encounters with surprising collections of manuscripts, and enjoyable interactions with other scholars and like-minded history lovers.  However, it was truly an amazing experience to share the incredible collections of the David Library of the American Revolution with my family.