The Historium

History Consulting

Why We Love History (And You Should, Too!)

It seems like almost a daily occurrence in adult life- running into someone you knew a while ago, or meeting someone new- the first question that they ask is: “What do you do?”

 Of course, my answer is what you’d expect.  “I’m a historical research consultant.”  Usually this is where it gets uncomfortable. 

There is a pause, a scratching the back of the neck and then, “I HATED history class in high school.”  Then they realize what they said and get awkward.  “I mean, but… how interesting!  Good for you!”

Usually, I smile politely and nod.  But here is what I would like to tell them, and what I’d like to tell you:

I am not surprised you hated high school history.  High school has to adhere to standards and so it teaches basic events like they are equations – cause and effect.  Real people become heroes, so high up on a pedestal that they are unapproachable and unrelateable.  More emphasis is placed on memorizing dates than understanding why things unfolded the way they did. 

It’s such a shame.  I wish that your teachers would have been able to put aside all of these national standardize requirements and figure out what part of history would resonate with you and make you passionate.  The truth is I know there is a subject somewhere in there that would evoke passion. 

Sure, maybe you thought the text book’s description about the invention of the steam engine was dull, but what if you found out that the only reason the town you live in exists at all was because of the people who moved there to build the track for it?  What if you knew that your great grandfather rode the rails from city to city taking pictures of people who were living in squalor during the Great Depression?  Would that change how you thought about history?

          All that said, here are five of the many things I love about history:

  1. I love the feeling I get when I realize that people who lived 100 years before me, were really not all that different. 
  2.  I love the idea that one little thing could have changed everything about the world we live in today. 
  3. I love that history touches everyone.  History shows that we are all tied together into this incredible context of the human experience that spans geographic bounds and time. 
  4. At its heart, history tells us a story.  Who doesn't love a good story?
  5. I love that history allows me to understand innumerable topics, I will never run out of subjects to research or places I know little or nothing about.  Even the greatest history “expert” cannot know everything, I find that humbling and challenging and it makes me rise to the occasion.

So, you don’t have to get awkward when you tell me you hated history in high school.  It’s okay! You have every right not to love the things I love.  But I wish for you the joy and the passion of knowing and loving something as complex and universal as history.  

Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

Top 5 Best Museums in Minnesota

It seems pretty obvious if you know anything about me at all that I love spending my free time in museums.  It works out pretty well for me because my husband is a restless man who loves exploring new cities anytime we have a free day.  Usually this means we are in lots of new areas, and a museum is a good way to find out some general information about points of interest.

Here are 5 of my favorite museums we've visited:

  1. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
    his museum focuses less on local art and historical artifacts and more on art.  I have many wonderful memories of coming here as a child and teenager.  I fell in love with art inside this building.  I saw my first mummy here.  Decided I wanted to be an Egyptologist for a time.  Became obsessed with Frank Lloyd Wright in their furniture gallery... the memories are endless.  Yes, this museum may have had an unfair advantage.
  2. Minnesota Historical Society
    I have done hours and hours of research for clients and personal projects here.  What I love about MNHS is the staff is helpful, courteous and kind.  The library is well organized and the building itself is gorgeous.  The exhibits are always engaging and interesting.  I also love that they have so many events including concerts, plays and speakers that bring the community in. 
  3. Crow Wing County Historical Society
    This one is a little on the smaller side compared to the others, but compared to many of the other small county museums I've been to I found it most memorable.  Located in the historic sheriff's home and old jail they have traditional exhibits that wind through the front half of the house and jail cells and regularly scheduled tours of the other rooms in the back all staged with period-specific items.  The tour guide was very knowledgeable about the house and the families who lived there as well as the origination of many of the artifacts on display.  
  4. The James J. Hill House
    As part of the MNHS, I was hesitant to put this on the list separately, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it deserved its own line.  The number of interesting and unique activities they run here are so varied that it gives a person reason to come back again and again, not to mention they run different tours so you can see different parts of the mansion at different times.  James J. Hill is such a prolific part of Minnesota history that  every Minnesotan should see this house at least once. 
  5. Northfield Historical Society
    Northfield has such a fun quirky vibe to begin with, as a college town with a young hip populous. Add to that the incredibly rich history of Jesse James attempted robbery of the Northfield Bank and defeat by the townspeople and you have a fun and interesting museum accompanied by the annual Defeat of Jesse James celebration.  


Compiling this list was fun, but challenging, so many other great museums were contenders, and I enjoyed all of them! Some of the front runners include:

Winona County Historical Society, Carver County Historical Society, Mcleod County Historical Society, Dakota County Historical Society, Oliver Kelley Farm, Stearns County Museum, The Pioneer Village in Nisswa, LeDuc Historic Estate, Fort Snelling, Sherburne County History Center, The Folsom House

Are you going to visit any museums on National Museum Day this Sunday?  Would any of these have made your list?  Which would you add?

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

Sneak Peek! Help me choose the cover for my new Ebook!

Big news here, I have been hard at work on my brand new, first ever, E-book!  I couldn't wait to share the news with you.   It's called The Purposeful Family Historian and in it I explain my fool-proof method for organizing a huge research project, like putting together your family tree, while staying focused, driven and motivated. 

I need your help!  I have two great cover designs, and I would love some help choosing which one is the best!  

Tell me in the comments below if you like A or B better!  Whichever gets the most votes will be the new cover.  I'll announce the winning design and the release date in a future blog post! 

Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

Celebrate National Senior Citizens Day with a New Friend

I have been blessed to have had some amazing clients, but some of my favorite experiences in my life have been sitting down with people from generations before mine and talking about their experiences. 

It is amazing to learn how similar certain things are, how they transcend time: the smell of cookies baking in the oven; how pets can be a kids best friend; the freedom of the first days of summer.  But also how different they can be:  the trials of women in the workforce; traveling before airplanes;  how much safer big cities were. 

I never pass up the opportunity to chat with someone about their life experiences.  I once spoke to a woman who grew up alongside F. Scott Fitzgerald on Grand Avenue, who told me that if she could go back and change one thing about her life, she would play with her dog more often.  Moments like that warm your heart and make you realize that you aren’t so different from anyone who came before you, but also help you realize the kinds of things that will affect you most as time goes on. 

So, tomorrow is National Senior Citizens Day and I challenge you to go out and make a new friend.  Befriend someone who grew up in a different time than you, a time when things were different but people weren’t discover how much you have in common and what parts of life were different. 

What lessons have you learned from talking to an elder?  Share your stories in the comments!

Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

3 Easy Ways to Find Your Motivation

I’ve been there so many times before: an endless cycle of getting a(nother) cup of coffee, staring at that blinking cursor and bashing my head against the desk.  Between working on client projects, columns, articles and working on my book, sometimes my writing juices just go dry.  On the darkest of those days (sometimes after a week of this infuriating routine) it can be hard to remember why I am doing this, or even to believe I can do it at all. 

The truth is, even though this is my dream come true, and I have been pretty successfully living that dream for 5 years now, I have these moments where I can’t find my motivation!  I think this goes a step beyond procrastination into the realm of fearful paralyzation. 

So how do I break through?  I go back and I read my very first blog posts.  I pull out the thank you note that my very first ever client wrote me.  I think about how nervous and excited I was, and how far I’ve come.  I remember that everything I have done in my business has been deliberate and intentional.  Every move I have made had a purpose. 

I have found that these moments are a result of losing sight of my sense of purpose, so I have come up with a little reminder that sits right at eye level from my workspace.

It says, “Because I want to inspire in others the same passion for history that drives me.”  It is nothing elaborate or overly lofty.  It just reminds me what gives me drive, what my mission and purpose is.  That motivates me.

No matter what you do every day, I bet you have a purpose in your life that motivates what you do, even if you lose sight of it sometimes.

  1.  If you are not sure what it is, go back through some of your memories, when did you feel inspired and excited last?  What happened?  Who was there? What were you doing? 
  2. If you can narrow this down, figure out what part of that situation would change what you are doing today and how you could apply it. 
  3. Finally, if you come up with the same answer more than once, write it down on a post-it or a note card and put it somewhere you will see it several times a day.  Make it your mantra and your purpose.

What do you do when you lose your motivation?  Have you figured out your biggest motivator? Share your answers in the comments!

Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

FREE Printable Workbook to Preserve Your Memories

There is something truly magnificent about the human experience and the way events are synthesized with our senses.  It is for this reason that interviewers often use photographs when talking to their subjects, to help draw out memories that are long buried.  

If you have been wanting to work towards documenting your own personal history but haven't weren't sure where to start, this is may be the perfect place.  

This Photo Memories workbook uses easy prompts connected to photos to help evoke memories.   It has a week long program to get you started in memory journaling using photographic prompts.  

Whether you are struggling with writers block in unlocking your own story, or you want to use this book to help start a dialog with someone you love like an elderly parent or  grandparent, this book will give you the foundation to use photographs as a tool to document your own personal history. 



The best part?  It is totally 100% free to subscribers of our e-mail list.  In fact, that's the only way to get it! 

If you haven't already subscribed  do it now and get your copy instantly!

Already have your copy? Has it been any help? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

What is Oral History?

I think History is commonly perceived to be almost a science, a list of concrete names and dates, unalterably carved into the slate megaliths of the past.  The truth is, history is more of an art.  The goal of the historian is to look at events much like an abstract artist would deconstruct a landscape before setting it onto canvas.  Squint real hard at the historical events and some of your preconceived notions and prejudices begin to fade away from view and maybe for a fraction of a second you can see things through the eyes of those who lived with them. 

Oral history is setting down someone's stories on paper for use as a historical source. To some, oral history is a subordinate form of history.  After all, as we all know, the human memory is fallible (but don't tell my husband that I admitted that!).  Things aren't always as black or white as we perceive them and sometimes we make snap judgments based on our own feelings or circumstances regardless of the grander context.  Take, for example, the story of a wealthy girl who lived through the depression in the 1930s in a beautiful mansion on a bustling uptown street filled with other great mansions.  Perhaps this girl never even realized there was a depression, surrounded by others of like means and with no interest in newspapers or radio broadcasts when she could be riding her bike to the beach.  Does her ambivalence about the Great Depression make her memories of carefree childhood summers any less valuable or valid? 

This question can be tricky, it relies upon us to make a judgement call regarding what is important and what isn't.  Because the vast majority of people were struggling throughout the thirties, can we write off her experiences?  What if she was remembering wrong, and the summers she recalled were actually from the early 1940s?  Oral history requires we reexamine our motives for studying history and the methods we use to distinguish what is valuable in a source. 

There has been a resurgence in the past several years with the establishment of organizations like the Association for Personal Historians and other consultants and even historical societies that are using oral history interviews to enrich our understanding of the past through extensive analysis of these personal stories, memories and experience. 

When it comes down to it, we research history to understand more about the human experience and all of these stories are a part of this experience that connects us throughout time.  They remind us that people are truly individual, but even so, we're all similar despite our circumstances. 

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Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

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