Tinkering with the past...

As I have continued to research my ancestry, I've discovered something about myself that seems to be a common trait among the men in my family. We love to tinker. My paternal grandfather was a mechanic, owned his own garage, and when he retired he still found time to put on his old work clothes and walk up the hill to his garage and tinker with his tools and cars. My maternal grandfather was a machinist who loved to hunt and fish in his spare time. He loved to tinker with his fishing gear and tackle boxes, and proudly displayed his many trophy catches on the wall.

My dad tinkering with one of my childhood toys.
Early in his life, long before I was even a passing thought, my dad enlisted in the Navy and was responsible for repairing and maintaining radar on destroyers. When he left the Navy he found work at IBM repairing large computers and servers. Dad had a knack for repairing things around the house too, and would often find inventive solutions to a repair problem around the house. To this day, whenever I have a home repair problem that I can't quite solve, I call on my dad who always has a well-thought-out solution.

You'd think having that tinkering gene in my blood would have directed me toward a career as an auto mechanic or engineer. I actually began my college career majoring in civil engineering, only to find out very early on that I was not equipped with the same mechanical skills as my ancestors. Having an aptitude for politics and history, I quickly changed majors to Political Science and later studied History as an undergrad and graduate student. While I've never regretted following my true calling, I've often wondered why I never inherited my dad and grandfathers' talent for tinkering. But after a while, I began to realize that you don't necessarily have to have a room full of tools to be a tinkerer. I am constantly tinkering with ideas, writing, research, and even this blog -- never quite satisfied with the end product, but always enjoying the process of getting my hands dirty, metaphorically speaking, anyway.

Readers of this blog may have noticed recently some of the results of my inherited tinkering. I've altered the font in some of the header images and in my blog logo. My goal here was to mimic the handwriting found in some of our nation's founding documents as a tribute to the pages of parchment that originally drew me to study public history and archives as a career. I've also added to my blog's header logo an early family photo of my grandmother, who passed away last month, as a tribute to my heritage and the influence of my ancestors in helping to guide my life's path.

I've also been tinkering with the content of my blog posts, focusing even more on history and archives in my home state of Tennessee. While I'll likely venture outside the Volunteer State's borders from time to time when the subject matter warrants it, I hope to use this blog to share even more interesting links to and comments on stories about Tennessee history, and to be an advocate for our state's recorded heritage.

I can't say that I'm totally satisfied with the result so far, but tinkering is in my blood. I'm sure there will be more changes in the years to come. In the meantime, I hope you'll continue reading and enjoying The Posterity Project. Feel free to add your own "tinkering" in the form of comments to this and future posts.



Gordon Belt is an information professional, archives advocate, public historian, and author of The History Press book, John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero, which examines the life of Tennessee's first governor, John Sevier, through the lens of history and memory. On The Posterity Project, Gordon offers reflections on archives, public history, and memory from his home state of Tennessee.