Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ambassador Group Reflections: Myth vs Reality

Group 1: Three days in, the three unlikely friends were faced with a challenge. They had to face the hardship of the long and winding trail of Jockey Hollow. They discovered a passion for wineberries and historical geography. They were able to see through the eyes of an 18th century soldier and experience some of their living conditions. They were able to stand in the lifeless huts of the homes of the soldiers of the past. They saw how difficult and challenging the nail-less structure was to complete.

The trio also had their knowledge of how reliable primary source documents are challenged. The trio always rightly believed that primary sources were the most reliable source of information, but didn't know much about comparing and contrasting primary sources that contradict each other. After exploring the origins of certain historical myths (Tempe Wick, Washington's cherry tree, etc.), the trio's knowledge and analysis skills improved.

Group 2: Historians are often confronted with the problem of determining whether something is myth or reality. Reality is the actual facts we can infer from documents, but we can never be sure if our perception of reality is correct because it is merely an interpretation of these facts. We are sure Tempe Wick existed, however we can't be sure if any story we hear about her is correct; the story heard could be another person's interpretation of the facts. Historians must also use inference to recreate buildings from the past, such as the soldiers' huts at Jockey Hollow. Historian's ideas on how their huts may have looked could differ because not all historians would interpret things the same way. For all these reasons, history is often guesswork and contradictory.

Group 3: Yesterday was a fun, historical and overall great day. Jockey Hollow was the place we toured and we saw many amazing things that another person might see as worthless. We saw the soldier huts that Washington's men slept and lived in, the Visitor's Center where we were introduced to one of the best tour guides in the park, Eric, and we visited the Wick house. We learned about the impact of myth versus reality through the Tempe Wick story. When thinking like a historian, it is important to figure out what is true and what is not. Myths are more enjoyable in society but are not true. Reality, on the other hand, showcases some of the best moments in our country's history that cannot be forgotten. When thinking like a historian, you should not let myths influence your perception of reality. This is why it is important to check your sources. Remember, just because a story sounds exciting, does not mean it is real. We learned so much this week and cannot wait for the rest to come.

Group 4: We spent the day at Jockey Hollow, which was named because of its geography and the horse races that happened there. At the Wick house, we learned about the myth of Tempe Wick and her horse, a living example of how stories told over time may not contain any truth. All that is reliably recorded is that the wandering soldiers were looking for horses to use and Tempe appeared frightened, not that they attempted to steal her horse. Oftentimes, stories that suit an individual's self interest, like George Washington and the cherry tree, become repeated and intertwined with the culture.

We also saw the replicated log cabins that the soldiers lived in. This allowed us to relive the past and pay homage to the hardships that the soldiers endured at Jockey Hollow. Also, during our hike, we caught sight of a snake, deer, and other wildlife. The wineberries were delicious as well! All in all, our day at Jockey Hollow was a great learning experience and opened our eyes to history.

Group 5: Myth vs. Reality

We went to Jockey Hollow and learned a lot of good, interesting things about the place and the history in general. The topic of myth versus reality was a strong theme. Sometimes, we must question historical stories that are popular and well-known. We ask ourselves, "How do we know if it's true?" and "What sources count as reliable?" We must sort through the many different perspectives and find proof.

We saw soldiers' huts, but can only infer how they were made at the time and how they lived in them. We rely on pictures, drawings, and letters. We also heard about Temperance's legend where she hid her horse in her house. This could very well just be a myth, but because people love the story, it is passed on as a reality. History can be made up of lies and assumptions, but sometimes that is all we have to hold on to.

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