Personal Historian

Before It’s Too Late!

personal history, personal historian, Leslie Lang, writer, Hawaii writer

Have you dreamed about recording a parent’s story? Or writing about the history of your family, and the path it took over the decades – now, while your grandparents can still tell you what they know? How about documenting the history of a company you built up from nothing, or recording the life of a long-beloved family home?

Lots of people consider such a project, but often don’t actually get around to doing it — either because they lack the time, and/or, very often, because they don’t have the know how or specific skills to pull it all together. And once someone is gone and it’s too late, there is often such a feeling of regret.

This is where a personal historian comes in.

Personal historians are storytellers, often (but not always) hired by a younger generation to capture, organize and preserve the stories of an older one. They are experts who know how to carry such a project to completion.

The Association of Personal Historians defines a personal history as:

…the story of a life, or stories from a life. It may be a memoir, a tribute, a life story, an autobiography, a biography, a video biography, or an oral history. It may also be a legacy letter or ethical will, expressing one’s values, wishes, regrets, observations about life, lessons learned, and so on. Many personal histories are books, a growing number are captured on video, and some are still simply audio.

Personal historians are creative professionals who help both celebrities and “ordinary people” tell their life stories. A personal historian may be engaged to help individuals, families, communities, or organizations preserve memories, images, voices, stories, and histories – often (but not always) in narrative form.

personal historian, personal history, Hawaii writerAs a personal historian, I use my many, many years of personal interviewing skills to sit down with someone and glean the story they have within them and want to preserve. They review everything, and then I put it all together in a professional, finished format.

Your stories and photos can end up as a high-quality, professionally designed book for your family or organization.

Another option is to put together a video project, using whatever combination of recorded audio, video clips, photos, musics, effects and narration work. The result is a polished multimedia project you can share by computer or disk, show at a celebration, memorial or other special get-together, and keep forever.

Why hire me, specifically? I have decades of experience working as an interviewer, writer, journalist, author, editor, cultural anthropologist and historian. I am a digital “junkie” who enjoys putting professional projects together on the computer. My friends say I am a Storyteller.

Please let me know if you have a project in mind and would like to discuss it.

And if you’re not ready to do your personal history yet, I’d like to encourage you to sign up for my quarterly newsletter. You’ll also get email notifications when I post here to the blog. It’s a way to get more comfortable with who I am, and the work I do, before jumping into a project of your own. (Do not be afraid! Girl Scout Promise: I will never abuse your email address, and I work hard to make my monthly newsletter interesting and worth reading.) 

Thanks for checking out my website, and I’d love to talk to you about a personal history project when you’re ready.

top photo © Mikle15 | Dreamstime.com  / middle photo © Karin Hildebrand
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“Gathering Places” Tour a Success!

Our recent Historic Architecture Tour of Hilo went great! It was the second in a series of three tours we give on the Big Island each fall, and this one focused on “Gathering Places.”

These tours, which are offered through Lyman Museum, are so much fun to research and lead.  It was Judith Kirkendall who designed them and she has brought me on to help. Judith is a historian and anthropologist (her dissertation was on the anthropology of food), lived for many years all over the world, and was formerly a University of Hawai‘i dean. She is just a lovely, interesting person. I am so fortunate to be able to work with her. We have so much fun working together.

Judith KirkendallJudith Kirkendall

East Hawai‘i, of course, has so much interesting history, and one of the fun things about our tours is that we can sneak people into places one doesn’t ordinarily get to see. Among many other places, we went into the Kaikodo Building and up into what was formerly its very interesting Masonic Lodge to examine the architecture – even though the Center Stage Dance Studio has recently moved in there. We talked to them in advance and got permission to have a look around even though they had a class in session! It was generous of them.

We heard all about the Koehnens building’s history,  and even went into its basement where we got to peak into a cement channel where the Wailuku River courses underneath the store. You can see the river swooshing by! I mean, you could reach down (not too far) and touch the water! Owner Karyl Franks told us some great stories about the building, how it was built, tsunamis, and how they keep that river from flooding the place.

We ate our bento lunches (included in the tour) at the Wild Ginger Inn in Wainaku, which has quite a history of its own. Its owner showed us around and told us about how it was formerly a hotspot bar/nightclub. One of our tour participants recalled going there in the 1950s when a stripper from Punahou School was performing. It’s much calmer there now.

There were many other stops as well – I’m just telling you some of the highlights – and then we ended up at the Japanese tea house at Lili‘uokalani Gardens, where we talked about Japanese architecture, brought over by Japanese carpenters who immigrated as plantation workers.

Japanese tea ceremony, Liliuokalani Gardens

The women of the tea house put on a tea ceremony demonstration for us, and it was an absolutely perfect way to end our busy tour. I think everything seemed to leave the tea house feeling a bit more calm and centered than when we arrived there.

Our next tour, also a guided van tour that starts at the Lyman Museum and runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., is on Saturday, December 17th. It’s on domestic structures – or another name for it might be “Historic Homes.” Sign up for it by calling Lyman Museum at 935-5021, if you’re interested, and don’t wait ’til the last minute because we fill ’em up.

And stay tuned for news about a brand new tour series, on a new topic, that we’ll be premiering starting in February. It’s going to be neat, and I’ll tell you more about it here soon.

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