History Troves to Inspire Imagination and Language in Aphasia Patients

[This is the first of two blog posts by Amanda Hill, a Ph.D. candidate in Texts & Technology and a participant in the Spring 2015 Citizen Curator internship program at the Public History Center.]


Betty Sample, Archivist, and Mae, PHC Volunteer, presenting PHC Archives

Betty Sample, Manager of Collections, and Mae Nielander, volunteer, presenting PHC Archives to William Greer, visiting scholar

The Public History Center (PHC) is partnering with the UCF Aphasia House to create a collection of History Troves designed to help individuals with aphasia tell stories.  UCF Aphasia House provides therapy programs to individuals with aphasia who have difficulty using language and speech as a means of communication. History Troves are a new tool they are working on to help people regain their use of the part of the brain that controls language. A History Trove is a sort of curated exhibit in itself. They tell a story that borders between fact and fiction. Using the clues inside the History Troves, individuals with Aphasia are asked to first find the story and then to orally tell the story. In this way, we hope the History Troves spark inspiration and memory in Aphasia patients.

So far one History Trove, focused on the life and career of a WWII hero in Seminole County, has been completed. A group of people from the PHC gathered together to explore the box. Chris Stapelton of the Aphasia House placed the box on the table and without any instructions or context of what we were about to experience, he let us dive in. The History Trove came in a box covered in reproductions of newspapers from the 1940s and tied with string. Inside the box were a number of “artifakes,” replicas of artifacts that would have fit with the time period. Together the items in the box become clues to a yet undiscovered story.

There isn’t just one story in the History Trove, either. While we sorted through the clues as a group and discussed their possible connections and context together, at the end of the session, each person had their own version of the story. While the boxes are authored to reflect one specific story, that story is never shared with the participants, which means the History Troves can be read in countless ways. Each story created is as insightful and valid as any other. This allows the reader to create stories that are personal and come from experiences they’ve seen or heard. By working to verbally tell these new stories, the project hopes to give Aphasia patients some inspiration to re-discover language.

The PHC is excited to play a big role in this project. We’ve begun providing the Aphasia house with historical documents, “artifakes,” photographs, and such that we find in our archives or by conducting historical research. These materials serve as inspiration for creating the stories housed in the History Troves. Because of this, the story-clues collected and organized into the History Troves become historical fictions that are based in well-researched history. The PHC provides a sort of historical guidance in the process of creating new History Troves and gives context and ideas to History Trove developers. We additionally see potential uses for the History Troves in K-12 classrooms, as a means of working with primary sources and exploring artifacts and storylines from historical times and settings.

There are five participating organizations working to build the History Trove project: The UCF Public History Center in Sanford, UCF Department of History RICHES project; UCF Aphasia House, UCF College of Education, and Simiosys Real World Laboratory. We each play an important role in this process, and the PHC is excited to work towards such an important goal with these community partners.

More information on the Aphasia House can be found here: http://www.cohpa.ucf.edu/clinic/aphasia/