We are excited to launch this new biweekly blog series called “Meet a Member.” AASLH has 5,500 fascinating members working hard for state and local history, and we want to show them off. We’ll feature one organization and one individual each month.
Gilbert V. “Gil” Gott: AASLH Member of AASLH since 2000
Gil is the Executive Director of the Plant City Photo Archives and History Center as well as a local historian, researcher, and writer.
Alma Maters: Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service and The Graduate School, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Fields of Interest: State, and Local History; American Government
How long have you been active in the field of history?
I joined the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society in 1970 (IUP) and have been active in one manner or another since.
How did you become involved in the field of history?
My father was a history enthusiast and instilled in me the importance of knowing something about the world around you.
Why does history matter to you?
As T.S. Eliot said, “The historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence.”
How has your AASLH membership been of value to you and your practice of history?
AASLH has been invaluable in providing resources, training opportunities, and networking not found elsewhere. We are part of the Small Museum Affinity Group and attend annual meetings and training workshops and seminars.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting in your field, what would it be?
Be observant; the world you see everyday tells you something about how it came to be.
What are you working on right now?
With the festival staff, we are working on researching and writing the 85-year history of the Florida Strawberry Festival with the assistance of the publisher, the Donning Company. I also publish a monthly column on local history written around the photos in our extensive digital photo collection.
What is the most interesting or challenging change you’ve seen in the field?
What else? The Internet! Instant facts – accurate or not, there they are for you to ponder and work your way through.
What are a few of your greatest accomplishments in and out of the field?
Basically to take an organization founded simply to save a local photographer’s thousands of photos from the dust heap of history and build it to a well-functioning award-winning history organization within 15 years, while gaining community support and accumulating over 100,000 photographs and documents.
What would surprise a member of Congress if they were to spend a week shadowing you in your job?
The intense focus required to collect the stories of the people that make up the microcosm of America and the application of historical criticism to accurately preserve the stories of the world around us.
There has been no more rewarding work than the full expanse of “history” and AASLH has helped facilitate the workings.
These answers were edited for length and clarity. Want to be featured? Email Hannah Hethmon to learn more. Click here to read about more featured members. Visit our membership page to learn more about AASLH individual membership.