Last Wednesday, Robert R. Archibald, president of the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, had a lecture, “History in the Present Tense,” for the 23rd Annual James Neal Primm Lecture at Mercantile library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
“My view is that history is really about the future, [it] is not about the past. It is something living people do. It is a way of sorting out who we are, and a way of sorting out what’s good about the world we live in and what could be better,” Archibald said. “You receive a legacy from the past created by all those people who lived before you did. [The question is,] what do you do with that? Even if you do nothing, that’s a choice, but whenever you do nothing, the consequences will fall on the shoulders of someone you have never met, because they are not born.”
Archibald is a native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His education and professional experiences in a variety of areas across the nation have provided him with different perspectives and understanding of history.
“I think I have always been interested in history. I am a creature of the 1960s. I majored in history and economics. [After undergraduate education,] I decided to pursue an advanced degree in history, so I ended up with Ph.D. in history from the University of New Mexico,” Archibald said. “I started working in the museums many years ago. I have been working in museums for almost 40 years. [Now] it is hard to imagine a life without that. It is what I do, it sort of becomes, after a while, who you are.”
James Neal Primm, founder of the program, became chairman of the history department at University Missouri-St. Louis in 1965. He is well-known for his great contribution to the school when it was in its infancy. His daughter Jackie Termini paid a visit to UMSL that day to participate in celebrating Dr. Primm’s legacy.
“[It has been going for] twenty three years. It’s to carry on the legacy of my father who was, of course, a great historian,” Termini said. “Bringing new people to the school every year [is very meaningful.] You do not have to be historian. Common people just can enjoy it. I’m hoping that my grandchildren will be coming.”
Every year, the James Neal Primm Lecture invites distinguished historians across the nation to UMSL. Last year, Mark E. Neely Jr., Pulitzer Prize winning historian, paid a visit to the school as a guest speaker.
“Neal Primm was probably the foremost historian in the St. Louis area from our generation. Neal Primm was really an institution in St. Louis rooted way back into the community,” Louis S. Gerteis, professor of history department, said.“[Speaking of the Neal Primm program,] we have very illustrious groups from the current President of Harvard University to a Pulitzer Prize winner.”
The James Neal Primm Lecture series will continue to carry on the great legacy of the founder by having world-renowned history scholars at the program. Martha Sandweiss, history professor at Princeton University, is appointed to the speaker for the next year.
By: Minho Jung, News Editor