Explore Your Local History for Free!

By Amy Loeffler

Explore local history with your little ones this summer through landmarks, maps and even the traditional museum.  Don’t live down the street from the National Gallery of Art or the MOMA? No problem. Redplum has five tips to script your own version of History Detectives–local style–no matter what size your city or town (and these projects won’t take one penny away from your summer get-away budget).

Cemetery Trailing

Take the tykes on a self-guided tour of a cemetery near your home.  Make note of recurring symbols, aesthetic elements such as color and wear, as well as informational tidbits like dates and names.  If you have the materials on hand such as crepe paper or newsprint and crayons, make a rubbing of the tombstone. Display the tombstone rubbing on your refrigerator once you get home as an artifact of your trip!

Interactive Mapping

List important places in your town on a map. Ask your knee-high-to-a-grasshopper-navigators to create an itinerary to municipal buildings, quirky landmarks and other locations such as the neighborhood firehouse, library or hospital. Before each stop consult your map and ask your kids to plan a route to the next destination.  Break for lunch at a local eating establishment and talk to the owners/operators about their restaurant or café. 

Architecture Sleuthing

Pre-select buildings or structures in your city or town with distinguishing architectural elements. Generate a list with your elfin Frank Lloyd Wright of criteria such as most interesting entryway, most decorative windows, unusual building material/pattern, and to keep it really local, include homegrown lawn ornaments or decorations. After you’ve taken photos, head to your library to find books on architecture trends and see which photos you can match to historical movements.

Chronicling-A Day in the Life of Your Town

Put some fresh batteries in the family digital camera and go on a scavenger hunt. Make a list beforehand of common buildings, structures, places and activities that characterize your town. As you find each item, cross it off the list by snapping a photo of the item or the activity. Share your photos in print form by posting them on the ‘fridge, or uploading them to a Web site such as blogspot.com that will host your site for free.

Visiting-Museums and Historical Structures

Finally don’t discount your local museum for an entertaining morning or afternoon and an obvious resource for finding out about your county, town or city’s local history. Take advantage of children’s programs, and if there are none, and have your kids affect their best newscaster voice and interview museum staff (time permitting of course) about major events that have taken place from back in the day.  Even if your town isn’t large enough to have a whole museum dedicated to local history, remember, local museums can be historical structures such as houses of prominent families, they need not be traditional repositories of large numbers of artifacts.