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Meet A History Saver: Laura Pearce

As HistoryIT celebrates its 10th Anniversary in 2021, we want to take the time to share how amazing our team of history savers is. In this monthly blog series, you’ll get to know each member of our organization who makes HistoryIT’s history-saving work possible, starting with Project Director Laura Pearce.

Laura Pearce is used to wearing lots of hats in her position. From the broader tasks like managing clients and curating new exhibits, to the smaller minutiae like refining the metadata on a website or analyzing clients’ existing collections, each day brings a new challenge.

With a clear passion and love for history, Laura knows exactly how to breathe new life into her clients’ history. Her abundant knowledge and commitment to saving and preserving history make Laura and HistoryIT’s work vital for any organization who values its past.

1. What about history inspires you?

“The past is a foreign country” rings true for me. I’ve always been fascinated by cultural traditions and for me history is an extension of that. The past – even of our own society – has a unique culture and has unique mores, traditions, and values that are different from and have shaped what we experience today.

2. This is HistoryIT’s 10th Anniversary year, woah! When did you discover HistoryIT and what is one memory from your first year working here?

I first discovered HistoryIT when I finished graduate school in 2014. At the time, we were working with the University of Indianapolis Mayoral Archive, and I learned more about the city of Indianapolis than any one person who has never lived there needs to know! It was great though, and I developed a bit of a historical crush on Bill Hudnut (Mayor of Indianapolis from 1976-1992). I especially loved how despite being a Republican himself, he fought against the Reagan administration to do what he thought was best for his city.

3. In your role at HistoryIT what does a typical day look like?

As a Project Director every day looks different. One day I might be handling communication with clients. The next day I might be working on an exhibit for a new site or working with the metadata that makes digitized historical materials actually searchable. The best days are when I get to talk with our clients and their stakeholders about why their history is important to them, and how preserving and digitizing that history can help them reach their goals.

4. What’s one of your favorite HistoryIT projects?

This one is a tough one! I’ve worked on so many cool projects while at HistoryIT. If you forced me to choose though, I’d have to say my favorite project was the very first project I worked on from start to finish: Discover D.C. History. This was the first time I participated in an on-site assessment. It was amazing to dig around in the archives of the D.C. History Center and see all the fascinating historical materials housed there. My favorite piece was the actual bullet that killed President James A. Garfield. I know it’s a bit morbid, but also how cool is that?

5. Why should we be digitally preserving our history?

I love history, but I know most people don’t, and I think that’s largely because real history is inaccessible. Most folks experience history through a textbook – of course that seems boring and irrelevant! But real history – primary source documents, photographs, first person narratives – even the folks who “don’t like history” can find something interesting there.
Unfortunately, most of this history is locked away in archives and museums with only a tiny percentage actually on display for people to access. Digitally preserving our history not only ensures that it continues to be preserved for the future, but it also allows us to make our history more accessible in the present through websites and digital exhibits. And, perhaps most importantly, it allows the public to decide which aspect of history is most interesting to them and to explore that independently – the same thing we historians have been doing all along!

6. What’s one thing you want your clients to know about HistoryIT?

It’s important for our clients to know that HistoryIT is run and staffed by historians. We work with technology daily and we want to help you preserve your history for the 21st century and beyond. At the end of the day, though, most of the folks at HistoryIT are historians and our passion for history is what drives us!

7. If you were to look back on this interview in 10 years, what do you hope your future self will know about history?

The identity and whereabouts of D.B. Cooper.

8. Who will play you when they make a movie about the making of a HistoryIT?

Emma Watson!

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