Hello all! My name is Samantha Hartford, and possibly the most important thing I can tell you about myself is that I love learning – both figuring new things out myself, and helping others learn. Perhaps you can attribute this to the fact that I was raised by two schoolteachers, frequently hiking or combing the beach.
I grew up just north of Seattle, Washington, and to this day I love the Pacific Northwest very much. However, when it came time to go to college, I decided that I should take the opportunity to experience living in a new place. Accordingly I did my undergraduate degree in History with minors in Paleontology and Environmental Studies at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Though living in a cold desert was quite an adjustment from the temperate rainforest of the Northwest, I did enjoy the red rock and ancient history of Utah. While there I also began working at museums, cleaning bones, running hands-on activities, and developing interpretive material for the Dead Sea Scrolls.
History had been fascinating to me all my life, but it wasn’t until a college trip to Peru that I really decided to make archaeology the focus of my studies. Seeing great stone monuments like Machu Picchu was extremely impressive, but it was seeing modern brick reconstructions of these beautiful cut stone structures that really made me start thinking about the way we interact with the past today.
Researching reconstruction led me to the door of experimental archaeology, a subfield in which ancient technology and artifacts are recreated to answer questions about process, knowledge, and invention. With a little more research, I found one of the most promising programs in experimental archaeology in the world at the University of Sheffield, England. With more than a little luck and trepidation, I packed up once more and spent a year of hard work earning my MSc in Experimental Archaeology, completing my very own research on historical reenactment and our present experience of the past.
It was in completing my research that I truly fell in love, and that is why I am here today. I graduated knowing without a doubt that I wanted to learn more about living history, and that is one of the main reasons why the position at Jackson’s Mill piqued my interest when I stumbled across it on a preservation job board just several months ago. The chance to apply what I already know and to discover much more in dealing with hands-on history and the public was too good to pass up, especially when considering that as an Preserve WV AmeriCorps I could be a true help to a small organization. Both in terms of giving tours and interacting with visitors, and in developing exhibits and strengthening volunteer programs, there is much to keep me occupied at Jackson’s Mill.
While I had been in West Virginia once before, that one time was just a few days ten years ago on a road trip – so moving here has been a learning experience in more ways than one! So far I have had a very welcoming and invigorating experience, and I look forward to what we can accomplish in the coming year.