During my college years, I had the great pleasure of
spending a summer in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Being an enthusiast of outdoor adventure and having spent many days
throughout my life among the great valleys and peaks that define the area, I
have a great respect for and feeling of awe that accompanies me while
Many of life’s most poignant
lessons have been taught to me among the Tetons.
During this particular summer, I was assisting guests on a
scenic float trip down the Snake River that meandered through Grand Teton
I was intrigued to
observe these people and listen to their stories as they experienced these
I had become well
acquainted with the phenomena that created the pristine mountains and valleys;
had familiarized myself with the plants and wildlife that resided therein; and
became a student of the local history that surrounded the area.
I enjoyed sharing these details with my
guests and answering their questions as best I could.
Many of the experiences from that summer and
other summers, falls, winters and springs throughout my life are recorded
within a collection of journals I have kept.
One of my primary duties included shuttling the guests along
with their raft and guide to the beginning of the excursion, helping them
launch, and then proceeding to the takeout point to wait for their arrival, an
obvious process for most.
However, as I
was prepared to launch one such trip, one of the guests was trying to determine
what they should bring along with them and asked, “So, do we takeout here as
Hopefully, by the end of the trip, this guest gained a
valuable understanding regarding rivers.
In the natural world, unlike the “Jungle Cruise” at Disney Land, the
river continues onward in constant progression.
It is always changing and adapting to natural circumstances.
The river water does not circle around and
around the same course day in and day out.
Rather, it continues on in constant progression, carrying the sediments
from the beginning and depositing them along the way to fortify the
Similarly, the progress of human civilization does not and
should not remain channeled in a circular course.
Rather, it is and should be progressing
onward and upward as we adhere to basic principles that keep us on track.
However, too often, we find ourselves trapped, learning and
relearning difficult lessons and principles that have already been taught in
the fiery crucible of human experience.
tragic that the furnace has to be relit in seeming perpetuity to reteach
those same courses.
As George Santayana famously quipped: “Those who don’t learn
history, are doomed to repeat it.”
As a society, it is ever so important that we take time to
study and understand the past.
has been written.
Even more has been
The more time we take to discover
the lives and experiences, the thoughts and perspectives of those who came
before us, the more likely we will be to avoid making their same mistakes,
to build upon their successes, and to appreciate the foundational strength they
So, what resources are available to help us explore the
Your local library is a great place to start.
Beyond the plethora of various reading
materials, from books, to journals, to magazines that we might expect to find,
many libraries maintain vast collections of archival materials such as old
documents, manuscripts, photos, videos, or audio files that are available for
These materials may be found at public libraries,
educational institutions, and various government libraries.
Historically, they have been difficult to locate and have
required extensive hours of exploration before locating the items or topics in
which you have interest.
In today’s world, however, that process has become
Over the last few
years, libraries have begun digitizing these materials in hopes of making them
more readily available for public dissemination.
Through the use of technology, these materials have become
much more findable.
search engines, you are able to quickly locate items relating to various
historical figures or topics and the institutions or individuals maintaining
In addition, through the
various digital library platforms those entities employ, you can quickly view
and search through the materials to discover and explore the past in greater
Thankfully, efforts are being made by the owners of these
materials to make them more widely available.
They recognize that greater value in historical scholarship is garnered
through collaborative efforts.
Whether your interest in the past is founded in scholarly
research, personal curiosity, or some other motivation, visiting your local,
educational, and/or governmental library will provide the guidance and
resource necessary to launch your exploration into the past.
As Confucius has been credited with saying, “Study the past,
if you would define the future.”