The Book Launch Party, Part 2

In which I continue the story of the book launch party begun in Part 1. The next section of my remarks are a tribute to one of my mentors, to whom we dedicated the book: Alan Woolworth.

Alan Woolworth, who is about to celebrate his 88th birthday, arrived early to get a front-row seat, proudly wearing one of his “Nebraska” caps. Alan did the undergraduate work that led to his career in archaeology, museums collections, and research, at the University of Nebraska.

Now I need to tell you another story. Zabelle is right. Alan did not technically contribute to this book. But I have to tell you why: it because even before I started he had already loaned me his entire private collection of Minnesota captivity narratives.

It started with a binder. Alan knew I had little children because they came along with me on many visits to his office at the Minnesota History Center. These visits started when there was only one child. Then there were two. Then there were three. Those were the days before Alan’s research collections were available in the Library and even though he was supposed to be retired, he’d come into the office just about any time anybody asked.

Alan loves children. But I think he took pity on me. Because one particularly crazy morning at home my phone rang and Alan said, “I’m on my way into the office and I have something I think you could use. Can I drop it off on my way?”

A few moments later he was standing on my front porch in his long warm coat and woolen muffler with a very large binder in his arms. “This is from my house,” he told me. “It’s the same collection of my Dakota biographies that’s on my office shelf. Keep it as long as you need it. Photocopy what you want. Then return it sometime.”

I stammered my thanks and he was gone. Later, when my husband came home for lunch my oldest said, “Daddy! Daddy! Did you see them? Did you see them?! Those are Mr. Woolworth’s footprints in our snow!”

The binder was just the beginning of wonders loaned or gifted from his personal collection: material he’s collected at home over the years. Rolls of microfilm MHS does not own. Obscure old books. Boxes of research files.

But more than simply share information, Alan trained into a generation of novice, impressionable scholars like me that what we do with history is share it. If we are blessed to find something, it may be because tomorrow we will meet someone who needs that very thing. Alan’s spirit of humility and generosity permeates our local research community. Outsiders like Zabelle often remark on how readily we share.  If we do, it is because Alan has taught us so well. Not by lecturing. But by modeling how it done. Alan, we are grateful!

To be concluded in Part 3.

This entry was posted in A Thrilling Narrative, Alan Woolworth. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Book Launch Party, Part 2

  1. Jan Klein says:

    Very well put, Carrie. And a lovely gesture on your part to thank a wonderful man! He is certainly Mr. History in Minnesota.

  2. Louis Garcia says:

    There are not enough words in a dictionary to describe Alan R. Woolworth. He is a veteran of World War 2 as was his twin bother who was killed in action. Alan’s name is all over North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska. He knew all the old Indians and their children whom we read about in books. History would be a lot poorer today without Alan.

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