Learning from the Past

Published: Aug 30, 2002

Connecting Ideas

  Jim Bailey
Jim Bailey, a history major at UMBC, is a park ranger at the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.

“Learning from the Past”


Jim Bailey first became interested in the Civil War on a family trip to Gettysburg as a child. “I went to a Civil War reenactment of Gettysburg when I was 8 years old. A Union soldier let me wear his coat and hold his .58 caliber Enfield musket,” he says. “History was suddenly very real to me – I felt as if I could see it, hear it, smell it. I was hooked!” Now Bailey is studying American history at UMBC.

“I wanted to be a history major because everything we do as individuals is predicated on our past experiences,” Bailey explains. “People learn from their mistakes and successes and history is simply that individual experience in a larger context. I study history to try to understand why individuals and nations act as they do, and the ways in which they may act in the future.”

Bailey is exploring his love of history in a variety of ways. Off campus, Bailey’s internship with the National Park Service at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore City led to employment as a park ranger. He is one of five UMBC students currently working at the historic site.

At UMBC, he is president of the History Student Council of Majors and the history department’s representative on the Provost’s Student Advisory Committee. As a Humanities Scholar — a scholarship program for incoming freshman interested in literature, history, philosophy or languages — Bailey receives special opportunities to conduct research in his field.

He was awarded grants from both the Honors College and the Provost’s Office to research the Romney campaign, an important, but relatively unexplored chapter of American Civil War, and spent the last year and a half canvassing the National archives as well as regional libraries and museums. Bailey says, “I explored the diaries and correspondence of soldiers and civilians involved in the campaign. I also conducted field investigations and during one, uncovered a battle site believed to have been lost for 140 years.”   

In the future, Bailey plans to continue his employment with the National Park Service and to earn a Ph.D. at the College of William and Mary or the University of Virginia. “My hope is to become the chief historian of the National Park Service,” he says.








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