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7 Fascinating Ways to Get a History Lesson Outside of the Classroom

Canada's Museum of Civilization
7 Fascinating Ways to Get a History Lesson Outside of the Classroom

The story of man is fascinating, but sometimes sitting in a history class doesn’t really give you the full effect. Immersing yourself and seeing tangible pieces of history provides a real connection to our past and a much more impactful way of looking at history.

Autographed Documents

An autograph is like a fingerprint. It’s unique to an individual, and when that individual is a historical figure it’s an intimate connection to a person that changed the course of a culture or country. The Raab Collection has cultivated an assortment of signed documents from some of the most influential historical figures, including Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and Thomas Edison. They’ve also helped organizations like the Library of Congress find signed documents that are on display for the public.

Historical Buildings

Walking through a historical building is like taking a step back in time. If you’ve ever been to the Louvre you may have been surprised, as I was, to find that it was housed in the former palace of the French royal family. The building itself was just as fascinating as the artwork.

Historic libraries, government buildings and homes provide an intimate look at the architecture of the time as well as how people lived. Another type of historical building that has held people’s morbid fascination is insane asylums like the Buffalo State Hospital. They peak our interest because of the infamous things that happened under the roof, and also because these types of facilities really don’t exist today.


Since man began painting on cave walls art has been used as a means of recording history. Take for example the pictographs on the pyramid walls that famously chronicled the story of ancient Egypt. Without them we would know far less about an intelligent culture that reigned supreme long before the Age of Enlightenment.

The Renaissance is quite possibly the most well known period of art. Artists like Leonardo di Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael captured scenes of everyday life and came up with techniques that are still used today. If you’ve ever taken an art history course you may also remember learning how artwork can embody cultural movements in both their subject matter and how the art is created.

Historical Reenactments

They might seem a little hooky, but historical reenactments are the closets we’ll get to seeing how people use to live back in the day. There are “living history” museums located all over the country, and one of the largest, Genesee Country Village & Museum, is just outside of Rochester, NY. Civil War battle reenactments are also highly popular attractions for history lovers and the actors that participate in them.

Visiting Battlefields, Monuments and Landmarks

Visiting historic landmarks like battlefields and monuments are another tangible way to relive history. Many are located in the eastern half of the U.S., but out west you can explore old mines and natural wonders like the Grand Canyon where century-old buildings and settlements still exist.


Of course museums are like history class with visual aids and without having to sit in one place. The great thing about museums is that they cater to different interests. They can be focused on art, science, nature or even the history of beer.

History doesn’t get more personal than your own family tree. can unlock the annals of your family’s past with an archive of documents that note people, places and times. For Americans this can be quite a history lesson since most of our family members ventured to the country from somewhere else. You may be surprised to find that your heritage isn’t what you expected or that family members were historical figures in their own right.

The cool thing about history is that it belongs to all of us, and we’re inherently part of it. Who knows, your letters could end up in a museum, your home could become a historical building or your predecessors could look you up on decades from now (if we haven’t figured out time travel yet).

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