We wrapped up our Making History Come Alive conference today. We had a fabulous three days with author and editor Carolyn Yoder. Among other things, she edits the Calkins Creek imprint of Boyds Mills Press and acquires history and world culture articles for Highlights for Children. We began with a tour of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History archives and library. MDAH staffers Forrest Galey, Jane Phillips, De’Niecechsi Layton, and Heather Weeden took us on an extensive tour of the public areas, the stacks, and the work rooms. We saw things that blew us away, including the heavily illustrated diary of an American soldier who spent time in a German POW camp during WWII and school records listing every educable child in particular Mississippi communities and what courses were offered in their schools. Every one of our out-of-state visitors went away impressed with Mississippi’s commitment to preserving Mississippi’s history.
Next on the schedule was Carolyn Yoder’s speech, “Making History Come Alive: Behind the Scenes at Calkins Creek.” She talked with us about titles she’s edited in the four years since the imprint was launched. Above all, she stressed the need for writers to do extensive research, including consulting primary resources, before embarking on writing historical fiction or nonfiction. When submissions come in to her for Calkins Creek or for Highlights, she consults the bibliography first. If it includes only a few children’s books and internet sites, she doesn’t even read the manuscript.
We then had three local panelists discuss how they “make history come alive” in their own jobs. Stuart Rockoff, director of history at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, talked about collecting, preserving, and sharing the history of Jewish communities across the South that were losing populations, and the communities’ unique stories with them. Terri Thornton, fourth grade teacher at Power APAC, talked about teaching Mississippi history by asking her students to conduct oral history interviews with their grandparents. Heather Weeden, historian at MDAH, told us the best ways to approach archivists at MDAH for help.
I’ll post more about this conference in the coming days.