The word “sankofa” and its bird symbol from West Africa represent the need to reflect on the past to build a successful future.

By Crystal Hurd, Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives

Well, well, well. What have I gotten myself into? “Museum professional,” huh? I’m realizing that this is real life. My life, as an actual museum professional.

August 2018, I walked into the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and CLUELESS. My amazing Museum Director Kimberly Springle welcomed me with open arms and introduced me to the vast world of public history. I mean, I’ve always loved vintage things. I can spend hours at thrift stores. Finding discarded items is kismet for me: I always wonder, “Hmm, what’s your story? Come with me. We’ll figure it out together.” Little did I know, I’ve been preserving history all along!

The AASLH Annual Meeting was my first professional conference ever. To put the cherry on top, I was fortunate enough to receive the 2020 Douglas Evelyn Scholarship granting full immersive access! My gratitude for this opportunity made sure I would NOT waste a moment! While traveling to Vegas for the first time would have been a dream realized, the introvert in me was a tad relieved the conference would be virtual. This setting empowered me to participate freely, speaking up more than I may have in person, asking questions and meeting contacts. I now have a wonderful list of resources to truly support this “late in life start” to my newly realized, long-time passion.

Admittedly, I was nervous. I was not a history major. I’m as novice as they come. I feared, “What can I possibly have in common with these long-studied history professionals? They know much more than I do.”

Well, let me tell you!

From the opening discussion, I found myself hooked! I logged on to find myself looking at four phenomenal panelists who looked just like me! The conversation was so full of wisdom, passion, and encouragement. I mentioned in the Emerging History Professionals Happy Hour event how confident I am for coming into this field at such a perfectly pivotal time!

As Christy Coleman gave the closing remarks, I watched completely awestruck (I literally had goosebumps). The place of TRUTH she spoke from, and the PASSION that fuels her, is the connection I hope drives each and every one of us all in this field: actuality, transparency, and most importantly sankofa.

It is our purpose to uncover, preserve, and share our collective history, in order to begin the journey of true community healing.

In reflection, for the question of what kind of ancestor will I be, I look to my late father, Charles Hurd, who only read non-fiction books because “History is necessary, Crystal.” He lived a life of determination. No matter what, he was determined. Lilian Thomas Burwell also once said, “It is my desire that the work I leave when I die, will share just enough to stir something in you.”

So my answer: I am determined to be an ancestor whose life stirs something in the next generation to continue the important work of global community healing. Thank you.

Recordings of the AASLH 2020 General Sessions are now available free to download in our Resource Center, and you can still register for the conference to get access to all session recordings now.