Historical interpretation requires dedication, determination

COPPER HARBOR — Historical interpretation is more than a summer job at a state park. It requires a love of history, a love of historical places, times, events, and people. For Josephene Vultaggio, it is largely the result of receiving much of her early education at home.

“I think one of the reasons I got so interested in history when I was younger, was I wasn’t just in a classroom, I was experiencing history,” she said.

For five and a half years she was home-schooled and her mother brought history from the books and made it real.

“My mom’s way to teaching history was ‘let’s go to a museum,’ or ‘let’s go to the library and read books that were actually written during that time period,’ and kind of get that perspective,” Vultaggio said.

Having history presented to her in that way, she said, gave her a very real perception of history, that inspired her to want to learn more. It also inspired her to become involved in interpretation for more than 13 years through the state of Michigan’s Future Historian Living History Program sponsored by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Michigan History Center, and administered through the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee.

“A textbook can only tell you so much,” said Vultaggio, “so I think it was just that learning to dig deeper part that really helped, so as a historian, as you’re going into that, you’re learning all these different things in classes that you take, or books that you read, and it’s like ‘Okay, I’ve experienced that firsthand,’ maybe not the exact same time as a person from that time, or would have, but as accurately as possible. It does give you a different perspective.”

Historians, she said, view history as what people did in the past, and discover that people still do many of those things today, feel the same emotions, and have similar thoughts.

“These,” she said, “are the traditions that helped shape and strengthen society.”