Wednesday, January 19, 2011

TV Shows Broaden Historical Horizons

There are all sorts of TV shows out there today, but there are more and more shows popping up that are rich in historical background and reference and are a must-see for history buffs.

As those who knew me from my younger years can attest, I was never a history buff.  In fact, I barely got through history and social studies classes.  But now that I am involved in genealogy, the historical context is becoming very important to my research and I find myself quite intrigued with history.

And since I am a continuous learner, I find the following TV shows to be intriguing and of importance to learn more about history (people, places, things), further my knowledge, and find ways to apply it to my genealogy.

American Pickers – This show is about two guys, Mike and Frank, who are “pickers” and travel the country in search of “rusty gold.”  They find all sorts of neat items, and many times they share bits of information about an item and/or the manufacturer, including the history.  I think the odd, antique items are the most interesting.  It’s amazing what they find!

Pawn Stars – A family-owned and operated pawn shop in Las Vegas is chronicled in this show.  Like American Pickers, there are all sorts of neat items that find their way to the pawn shop.  Often times, experts (such as a museum curator, arms and armor expert, auction dealer, or handwriting expert) are called in to examine an item for background information and authenticity.  And again, like American Pickers, it can be a great learning experience for historical finds.

Top Shot – Although this reality show is looking for the best marksman, it still provides historical value.  In the first season (Season 2 starts soon), the marksmen were challenged with a variety of weapons, including flint-lock pistols and a bow and arrow.  When the marksmen are learning about how to use the weapon, the trained expert also puts it in historical context, including when it was used and who typically used it and for what purpose.  For those of us with military ancestors, it’s a way to see the weapons our ancestors may have used during wartime.  Plus, the explosion images taken with a high-speed camera are pretty cool!

Decoded – This new show, hosted by Brad Meltzer, explores a wide range of historical occurrences, providing all sorts of historical information and possible alternatives to the known truths.  So far, the show has explored the alleged death of John Wilkes Booth,the apparent missing cornerstone of the White House, among other things.

Ghost Hunters and Ghost Lab – No, I have not lost my mind, and yes, these are both shows that deal with alleged paranormal activity.  But the neat thing about both shows is that many times they explore historical places, especially in the New England area and you can learn all sorts of things about the time, place, and people…and maybe even see a ghost or two ;)



Brian said...

I was the same way as a kid and in school. Couldn't wait to get out of history class and now I can't get enough of it. If the history in question is something that crosses my ancestor's path, then it's even more exciting.

Along the lines of the paranormal shows, Ghost Adventrues (on Travel Channel) and Ghost Hunters International are also good. The latter deals more with places in Europe and other parts of the world. Those are neat because they usually have much deeper history than local US locations.

Julie Cahill Tarr said...


Agreed, on GA and GHI. I sometimes forget about GA, and usually catch up on OnDemand. Have all 3 new season episodes of GHI on the DVR...I'm hoping it's a little better than previous seasons now that Britt and Kris went over...for some reason, I just couldn't get into it that much, perhaps with their addition, I can enjoy it more.


Greta Koehl said...

American Pickers is one of my family's favorite shows. Same here - bored by history in school, married a man who loves it and got me more interested, and now I am fascinated and obsessed with it because of genealogy!

Susan Petersen said...

I enjoy these shows as well although I haven't seen Top Shots. Think about it - the ghosts on those ghost shows are someone's ancestors.

Free Genealogy Guide said...

Pawn Stars reminds me of genealogy research. Sometimes the old item brought into the pawnshop looks like it supports the story of the pawner, but when the expert is called in to validate the item, it turns out to be something less than it appears. Every show is a lesson is the importance of verifying everything.

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