Meet a Member is a regular blog series spotlighting our members. AASLH has 5,500 fascinating members working hard for the field of history, and we want to show them off.
Kristin Gallas: AASLH Member Since 2007
B.S. in Secondary History Education/Theatre from University of Vermont
MAT in Museum Education from George Washington University
Fields of interest:
Museum education, interpretation, exhibit development
What is your role in the field of history?
“Storyteller” – I’m a storyteller at heart. I look for creative and compelling ways to connect the past to the present.
I am currently the Project Manager for Education Development at the Tsongas Industrial History Center at Lowell National Historical Park.
I also consult with/lead workshops for historic sites and museums on the comprehensive and conscientious interpretation of slavery. I co-edited the AASLH book “Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites.”
How long have you been active in the field of history?
I’ve be a history enthusiast since I was a kid – my parents would take us on family vacations to historic sites. Professionally I’ve been engaged in the field for 20+ years.
How did you become involved in the field of history?
I started working in the education department at Shelburne Museum, in Shelburne, Vermont while I was in college. I wanted to combine my love of history and life-long learning, but I knew that being a classroom teacher wasn’t for me. My mother was the one who suggested to me that “museum education” must be a thing, since my bosses at Shelburne Museum did it for a living, so I looked around for graduate schools and ended up at GWU.
Why does history matter to you?
Personally, I feel a sense of belonging by knowing where my ancestors came from, where they lived, and what they did. Working at the Tsongas Industrial History Center has filled me with such a sense of family pride because my grandfather and great grandfathers all worked in Lowell’s mills. I connect with the history on a deeper level when I know that “my people” were there – the connection is more intense.
Collectively, knowing what happened in the past is a way to build a bridge to the future. It helps us understand how we got to where we are and why we are who we are. The individual and collective narratives that make up history are so interesting. The story of one person’s experience of a historical event is just as compelling as a sweeping narrative. I love it when the individual pieces of narrative are set into the context of a larger story.
How has your AASLH membership been of value to you and your practice of history?
My membership in AASLH helped me to develop a strong professional network that has evolved into friendships and amazing collaborations. If it wasn’t for the support of AASLH, our book “Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites” would never have happened. The AASLH staff, the annual meeting, and the network of members enabled us to reach out to the field to do research and disseminate the findings. I am also an alum of Developing History Leaders @SHA (Class of 2002)
What are you working on right now?
At the Tsongas Industrial History Center I’m working on several projects that combine history and science. We are developing new interactives that will help students understand the mechanical systems in a historic textile mill. Also for TIHC, I am writing and producing a short film about Lowell’s Irish community and their desire for a town-funded school in 1831.
What are a few of your greatest accomplishments in and out of the field?
I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done with my colleagues of advancing the conversation on interpreting slavery. We’ve taken a holistic look at the psychological and intellectual effects of interpreting slavery to help public historians understand the underpinnings of the content and how to share this important history in a comprehensive and conscientious manner.