Is Dusty your real name?
Yes, it is! My dad named me Dusty Marie. Marie was my mom’s middle name, and according to my dad, he named me Dusty because he liked the meaning of the name. He can’t remember what it meant that caught his attention, but I have since learned that it means “warrior” or “brave soldier”. Secretly, I like to believe that I’m actually named after Dusty Springfield.
I like to refer to myself as an accidental historian. I had always enjoyed history, but I had no intention of pursuing it professionally. I originally went to school for atmospheric sciences, intent on becoming a meteorologist. It only took one semester for me to realize how truly awful I am at math and science. From there, I was forced to pivot and eventually landed on history. I grew up with an appreciation of history. My family visited a lot of museums, battleships, and battlefields, but, honestly, at the time, it just seemed like something I could live with until I could graduate and get out.
Why public history and not academic history?
When I first enrolled at SNHU, I had planned to concentrate on American History. My favorite periods to study are the Revolutionary and Civil War eras, but I only made it through one Masters-level elective in academic history before deciding that I wasn’t content spending the rest of my life writing journal articles that would probably never be seen by anyone other than university students. Don’t get me wrong; I love and fully respect the research these historians are presenting, but it wasn’t something I could see myself doing full-time. Public history opens the door to a world of opportunities from curator to archivist to researcher and places history within a context that is easily digestible for a general audience. History that collects dust on a shelf is not serving its greater purpose.
Which historians do you most admire?
This is a tough question, because there are so many! Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., comes to mind immediately. I so admire the work he is doing to bring more attention to African-American history. Stephen Ambrose (though his books have been a bit controversial due to plagiarism concerns) and David McCullough produced some incredibly popular (and truly magical) books in their respective lifetimes. Erik Larson’s recent works are pretty outstanding as well. Really, anyone who can present accurate history in a way that is engaging to multiple audiences is worth a mention here.
Do you have a favorite book in the history genre?
Because I am constantly reading, this is constantly evolving. Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage (which in complete transparency was one of the controversial books mentioned earlier) was fascinating. Being a native North Carolinian, I have a soft spot for David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers. If I had to choose just one, it would currently be a toss-up between Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile and James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom.
Will you ever write a book?
Actually, this is something I would love to do at some point. While it’s not in the immediate plans, it is something I have thought about quite often. I have a couple of options and a rough idea of how I would like them to develop, but for right now, the writing of those books is nothing more than a bucket list item.
Where do you hope to go from here?
I’ve always had big dreams with little support. That has made manifesting them extremely difficult throughout my life. I’m not even remotely close to where I thought I’d be twenty years ago graduating from high school. Is that a good thing? Honestly, I don’t think it is. I’ve struggled a lot, but I’ve also gained an immense amount of clarity over the last two years. My internal compass is currently pointing due north to Washington, D.C., and a job somewhere within the Smithsonian Institution. Hear that, Universe?
How can I connect with you?
The best way to connect with me is through LinkedIn and Instagram. Click on the links at the top of the page to follow me on all of my adventures.