By Samantha Wahl, Staff Writer
The second you walk into History Club, there is a sense of warmth. The room has a relaxing feel to it; it feels like walking into a room of old friends. Which is why I’m surprised when Abby Field tells me that there are a bunch of new people today.
There are enough that they go through a name game, having everyone state their names, majors, and a fun fact.
The sheer number of historical facts that fly around the room during this conversation are amazing; over the course of my stay here I learn about the history of zippers in American clothing (courtesy of president and club founder Abby Field, who specializes in historical textiles), the place the first Valentine in America was sent (It was Grafton, Massachusetts, the hometown of member Molly Fritschey.
Fritschey is a junior medical laboratory science major), the origins of the word “OK” (Martin Van Buren; fact courtesy of Natasha Ledoux, Vice President a junior History major), and a story about the elephants that Hannibal Barca rode into war. (Longtime member Samuel Consalatti-Welch tells me that one.)
Historical trivia bubbles out of these people with an easy enthusiasm. It seems that members of the history club are genuinely happy to be here, and many of them later confirm it to me.
It’s a treat for them to have a space to discuss history with people who care about it as much as they do.
“History [as a study] is usually individualistic… almost lonely.” Field, a junior history major, tells me in an interview. “Ordinarily, you’d only be reading or writing… [History club] adds a social dimension.”
That’s a recurring theme among club members: they are all grateful for a club that provides an outlet for sharing their love of history.
Like anyone else, history aficionados crave a place to express themselves.
But as Field explains to me, sometimes if historians get excited about their craft around friends that aren’t in the field, you can see “eyes glazing over”. “It’s really deflating”, she says, “when you’re excited about something, and you go to tell someone, and they’re just like: [sigh] ‘Great.’”
That is not a problem here. Everyone seems to have a different area of expertise- there are mentions of local history, Latin poetry, the Punic Wars- but everyone listens to each other’s facts and comments.
They have become what Field refers to as “GMO friends”; people who bond automatically over a common interest.
That, I decide, is the glow that I felt walking into the meeting; the feeling of that instant camaraderie.
And the source of this instant camaraderie? Secretary Jake Hunsinger, a senior English major, tells me that it’s largely due to the leadership of Field.
“She is the reason all of this is fun”, he says. Consolatti-Welch tells me that Field’s leadership has helped create a space where people may not always agree, but always listen civilly to each other.
“It’s a friendly place to disagree.”, Hunsinger chimes in. “[Just because] there are things we disagree on, doesn’t mean we have to dislike each other.”
It’s not all debates or disagreements, however; there is plenty of room for lighthearted chat in the club.
For instance, later in the meeting, the group is going to watch National Treasure together and, as Field puts it, “make fun of Nicholas Cage”.
At the end of the day, though, Hunsinger says that a serious part of the club’s existence is that it keeps history a priority in a time when colleges around the country are cutting liberal arts, including history, programs from their curriculum.
“We’re here to say, ‘There’s value here. There’s personal value, intellectual value, job value. The things we learn about each other, about our past selves, is just as important as computer science or medicine.’”
The history club meets on Thursdays at 6 PM in Liberal Arts room 333. It is in a conference room on the top floor.
PHOTO COURTESY: ABIGAIL FIELD