MT. PLEASANT — Aaron Kimzey’s favorite class has always been history. One of his favorite memories from high school is re-enacting a Viking raid, tossing paper balls at teachers who played the invaders.
Now a recent college graduate, the Mt. Pleasant resident hopes to have a hand in not only preserving local history but sharing and teaching the next generation.
“It’s about showing what history can be. It can be fun and entertaining. It doesn’t have to be reading from a book, memorizing names and dates, even though that’s what I personally like to do,” he said.
Kimzey, who was appointed to Henry County’s Historic Preservation Commission by the Board of Supervisors in mid-July, received his bachelor’s degree in classics and a minor in 19th century studies from Monmouth College this past May.
“History is something that has always gotten my attention. Going through middle school and high school, I didn’t like math or science — it didn’t speak to me,” he said.
Since returning to the area, the history buff has become involved with local museums like the Harlan-Lincoln House and hopes to begin a career in public history. In particular, he sees his new post with the commission as an opportunity to be civically engaged.
Kimzey said several classes at Monmouth pushed him to consider how, as a historian, he can “help the betterment of [his] town and better others.”
“It’s helped me to be on this preservation commission to help preserve the history and save it for the next generation so they can also learn and enjoy,” he said.
Kimzey learned about the commission through an ad in the paper and sat in on the commission’s June meeting, which quickly evolved into discussions about joining the group. The new member said the commission has several projects lined up including restoring a carpentry workshop and continued work on the commission’s book about one-room schools.
Joel Garretson, a member of the commission, said it was exciting to see Kimzey show interest, especially with the recent graduate’s background in history.
“It adds credibility to our commission,” Garretson said.
The longtime commission member added Kimzey has already volunteered to help with research as well as provide assistance on a National Register of Historic Places nomination.
“He’s a really nice young man. We enjoy the enthusiasm and look forward to working with him,” Garretson added.
Kimzey is excited to be getting more involved with the history of Henry County.
“I’m excited to be immersing myself into deep local history that I had no idea about. I think growing up, I just wasn’t as fascinated with local history but now that I’m older and a broader perspective, I see that it’s really engaging,” he added.
Kimzey said he feels local museums and preservation commissions are just as important as state-wide and national organizations. In addition to holding space for more local history, the new commission member believes they provide opportunities for those who cannot make their way to bigger cities.
“Not everyone can drive to Chicago or Des Moines. In having local museums, you get the same feel. It’s a lot cheaper or even free, and you get to learn up close,” he said.