Sunday, September 9, 2007

End of the tunnel - beginning of the blog.

Wow. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. This website has been in the making for a very very long time, and it feels wonderful to know that the majority of it is up and running. As some of you know, I had a blog documenting my Hastings project before (the now-defunct, but I was always painfully aware of the limitations of the medium. I always wanted to build a real website that could help me better "preserve and interpret" the history of the Pringle and Simmons families of Hastings, Minnesota, all the while making the research easily available to whoever was interested in checking it out. A nod here to Google's Page Creator product, which made building this massive website (500+ pages if you count the photo galleries, and I'm going to) relatively easy.

Some might wonder why I'm choosing to include a blog on this site, since the Pringle-Simmons history ostensibly came to an end when Carroll died in 1992. That may be true, but if I have learned only one thing from this project, it is that although history itself may not change, our interpretation of it certainly does. And that interpretation can make all the difference in the world. When I first read about Carroll Simmons, I pictured your average, rather rich, rather staid, philanthropist. But once I dug a bit deeper, I found an enigmatic man whose intelligence and independence - and eccentricities - absolutely fascinated me, proving that he was by no means your average, rather rich, rather staid, philanthropist. Or here's another incident worthy of blogging about: in 1999, when I first picked up the letters addressed to Nellie Pringle, I had no way of knowing that she had eventually married a man named Frank Simmons. And yet, that same trip, I saw a school certificate from 1915 written out to Lucia Simmons, and I felt inexplicably drawn to purchase it. I didn't realize until a couple of years later that the certificate belonged to Frank and Nellie's daughter Lucia. I find these shifts of perception to be extraordinary: they prove that history is not dead, that something or somebody is still speaking to us today, enlightening us with new information that constantly challenges our old interpretations. It is these sorts of realizations that led me to consider hosting a blog here, to document new facts, new ideas, and new questions. The entries may be infrequently updated, since - contrary to popular opinion - I do occasionally indulge in other activities outside of Hastings research, but at least it will be here when I have some exciting Hastings tidbit to share.

It is my hope that by using twenty-first century technology, I will be able to illuminate the lives of a remarkable nineteenth-century family. I feel incredibly indebted to them, and I can only hope that I've done them all justice, and treated them with all the respect they deserve.

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