Piecing Together History in Hopkinsville
On Saturday, July 20, 2013, we took the Watson and Robinson Family letters on the road. Special Collections staff worked with staff from the Hopkinsville Christian County Public Library and the African American Genealogy Group of Kentucky (AAGGKY) to create an event that we hoped would foster community dialogue and bring people into contact with one of our signature collections.
And an action packed day was had by all! We started the morning with an informal knowledge sharing session where we introduced ourselves, the letters and the story behind them. Using images from the Ronald Morgan Postcard collection that illustrated Hopkinsville of yesteryear, we tried to get people in a storytelling mood by using visual cues to start the conversation. And it worked like a charm. Our crowd was entertained at first but then began to talk amongst themselves about the sites appearing on the screen. Score one for our event getting people to talk to each other about their own community history.
There were several community historians among the attendees, one who has worked extensively with cemeteries in Christian County and one who had written a book about a local trial in 1833 in which a slave was accused of murdering her owner’s brother. Amazingly, one of the people referenced in the book appeared in the letters of Isabel Watson. Our first community connection to the letters!
Some attendees came with their own family history materials, hoping for advice and assistance on their research. The discussion panel hosted by AAGGKY not only provided great expert tips but it brought up many local issues regarding lost cemeteries and other resources. The advice and encouragement given by the panelists helped give perspective to what can sometimes be a solitary pursuit of information.
Although we had secretly hoped that a long lost relative descended from Isabel Watson or Reuben Faulkner would walk through the door and answer all of our questions, this did not happen. However, we were too busy to notice as we engaged with an audience intensely interested in the history of their own community and listened to stories that will never be found in a history book, more’s the pity.
We want to thank all the people who participated and helped with this event, especially the awesome staff of the Hopkinsville Christian County Public Library and the members of AAGGKY who who drove across the state to participate! You made the day a success!
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