Speaker Spotlight: Matt Armstrong

Our next speaker is Matt Armstrong, M.H.P. He serves as the Collection Coordinator at Governor’s House in St. Augustine. His talk, “Rebuilding the Past We Wanted,”will take place on Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. in the Flagler Room at Flagler College.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at Matt’s research process!

Speaker Spotlight: Matt Armstrong 1

What drew you to your discipline?I have always loved history but I was fortunate enough to have parents who took me to museums and encouraged me to read, as well as teachers and professors who made history come alive and invested time to assist me even after I graduated. 
What is your research process like?I had an interest in reconstructions and I began doing research – a lot of reading and reaching out to preservationists and museum professionals who had written books or articles on the subject. I contacted Dr. Dwight Pitcaithley (Chief Historian for the National Park Service from 1995-2005) and he told me at one point he had planned on writing a book on the same subject but that his research focus had changed before he finished. However, all the research he gathered for the book was at the NPS History Collection in Charles Town, WV – a gold mine! I drove up to West Virginia to research in that treasure trove and have been supplementing with other material.   
Why this topic?Reconstructed Museum Villages are really the intersection of archaeology, historic preservation, and museum studies. They also require participation and interaction from the public and typically engage more of the senses than a traditional museum exhibit, which can make them very interesting. They offer the suggestion that guests are able to travel back in time, which of course is not true and is, at it’s worst, problematic. But for all their shortcomings, and biases, and omissions, I think they have a great potential to spark an interest and investment in history and the build environment (especially with kids), which promotes good stewardship in our communities. 

What is the best part about your field?
I think my favorite part is getting to assist researchers with reference questions – what can I say, I love solving a good mystery.