Bill Watterson’s comic creation Calvin was always trying new “inventions” such as his “Transmogrifier” to help him change his identity and his “Time Machine” to travel back to the Paleozoic era. It seems to be a human desire to find a way to experience the past.
I recently read about a visit to the Great Hall at Winchester Castle in England, founded by William the Conqueror in 1067. The visitor noted that he could pay £4 and “stare at a table made nearly 800 years ago” that so many key figures in history would have seen exactly as it is now.
“That’s the closest we can get to time-travel. That we can see and touch the exact same thing that people saw and touched over 700 years ago. Mindblowing!” (R.R.Haywood)
And that is one reason we preserve historic sites, artifacts, and documents – to help us travel back to an unfamiliar time that would influence our present day. To stimulate our imaginations. To help us appreciate the benefits of modern life. To inspire us to strive for what is good. To encourage compassion and empathy for those whose lives are so different from ours.
Historic Fort Steuben and other sites that are repositories of our history offer the opportunity to be immersed in the sounds and sights that our ancestors experienced. More than museums where items are often displayed out of context, historic sites like Fort Steuben - which recreate a period - allow visitors to imagine themselves there. We have often welcomed youngsters wearing tricorn hats, ready to step into the 18th century. And teachers report that their students get a better understanding of what they study in class after a visit to the Fort.
Unlike the cardboard box that served as a time machine in “Calvin & Hobbes,” the wooden buildings and numerous artifacts at Historic Fort Steuben require regular maintenance and upkeep. In order to do so, we depend on donations through membership, fundraising campaigns, and grants. Please remember us when making contributions or estate planning. That’s a simple way for you to make time travel accessible to all.