When ALPLM Volunteer Bryce Thomas moved to Springfield nearly three years ago, he did not delay in getting involved at the museum. Majoring in History with a minor in Political Science at the University of Illinois Springfield, Bryce quickly found a home at the museum. "I have always wanted to volunteer at a museum so that I could help others come to appreciate history as much as I do. The ALPLM has allowed me the opportunity to do just that," he commented.
Even in his youth growing up and attending high school in Hawthorn Woods, Illinois, Bryce recognized and explored his desire to study history. His connection to history naturally grew over the years and led to his becoming a Civil War reenactor with the 45th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Company C. He also felt prompted to join the team of Volunteers interpreting the village at Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site last summer. Bryce's other interests include reading historic books, hanging out with his friends, and serving as an active member of the Model Illinois Government Club. This club consists of college students who simulate the Illinois General Assembly.
Bryce's strong affinity of history is not limited to the topics of Lincoln and Illinois. In the summer of 2018, he was selected as an intern at the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Site in Williamsburg, Virginia. This life-altering experience reinforced his love of history and solidified his career path. Working in the Department of Museum Theater, his responsibilities were aimed at assisting with the Survey Collection. "This internship changed my life as it showed me a different avenue for history, which is Historic Interpretation. The impact was so great that I now plan to become a Historic Interpreter or pursue a graduate degree in Public History," he explained.
In the two and a half years that Bryce has volunteered at the museum, he has donated close to one hundred and fifty service hours. In that time, he has fostered many meaningful relationships and friendships with the other volunteers and is appreciative of their knowledge and stories. When greeting guests, he often reflects upon the positive memories he had when visiting the museum for the first time and he aspires to give them a similar experience. Most importantly, he has learned that every visitor touring the museum reacts to the content in an individual manner and he must be prepared for their varied responses. He summarized, "I enjoy interacting with the public, especially those who are first-timers or from other countries. I like to watch our guests interact with the history of our nation and better understand how this history impacts our future."
The concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19 interrupted the last few months of Bryce's junior year at UIS. However, he was able to complete all his coursework through online and virtual correspondence. He is looking forward to returning to Springfield in the fall to finish his senior year and begin a career in history or continue his education. In the meantime, he is living with his family in Florida and keeping a journal of his life experiences during COVID-19 that could someday be a valuable resource for a historian researching or writing about this historic pandemic.
Bryce understands that history is an account of people's stories and how important it is that we listen and learn from them. "I have learned that each person interacts and learns history differently and that sometimes even though you want to interact with people it is better to let them experience history at their own pace. Another thing I noticed is that each person is unique and has their own story," he said.
We agree that everyone has an important story to share. Thank you, Bryce, for sharing yours with us!