York Town Square

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Wanted: Fresh eyes, new insights in York County’s history community

tedsicklerJournalist/historian Ted Sickler works with York County Heritage Trust’s Lila Fourhman-Shaull on an upcoming book about people drawn by 19th-century York, Pa., artist Lewis Miller. Before turning to the book, they had reviewed an upcoming scholarly journal. Both the Miller book and Journal of York County Heritage are produced by the Heritage Trust’s publications committee. Also of interest: Who are these York County, Pa., people in silhouette?

York County is blessed with local historical groups in most every town within its 900-square-mile border.

They maintain a sense of community, research hard-to-get community history topics, present programs on local history themes and staff museums. Their work – often quiet and behind-the-scenes – should be admired and respected in shaping community within their communities.

Another important piece of the York County historical community centers in and around the York County Heritage Trust. And an arm of the trust – its publications committee – is part of that enterprise, producing the Journal of York County Heritage and a substantial book every year.

That demands times of intense writing and editing – work that has been going on for years.

To keep that going, new researchers must enter such work. The county’s historical community needs new insights, fresh eyes, renewed energy and available hands to keep it productive. In sports terms, it needs fresh legs to enter the game at key points to provide a different look and to energize the team.

As one example in recent years, Ted Sickler has given this historical work energy and insight. In many ways, his emergence is akin to Civil War author Scott Mingus’ seven or so years ago.

So the question is: Who’s next?

journal5Ted has been a York County resident for more than 20 years.  He was an editor for the York Daily Record/Sunday News for about 15 years before taking his considerable journalistic and historical research skills north to The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, where he now serves as director of publications for that respected, award-winning newspaper.

In recent years, he also traveled the long path of completing his doctorate at the University of Delaware. His dissertation focused on indentured servitude and other late 1700s/early 1800s themes, strongly tied to York County.

So he has that rare mix of journalistic/writing and historical/research skills and insights that are a must if we are to explore our past and apply those learnings to the present and future. To be clear, June Lloyd, Mingus and Scott Butcher, among others, also have these skills. But we must keep looking for new writers/historians to supplement the generations who have contributed so much for many years.

Ted brings several attributes that bear on the historical enterprise here and regionally:

– His master’s degree came in American studies from Penn State Harrisburg, a resource that has helped prepare June Lloyd, Jean Hershner Brannan and other historians with York County ties. (I’m a product of that master’s program, too.) Among other things, researchers coming from this program are interested in exploring history and culture from an inclusive race/class/gender perspective – often overlooked in past generations.

– Dr. Sickler is an academician – he teaches college courses – but he’s interested in making a difference in local and regional historical research that can be accessible to the public. Contributions from York County’s academic community are badly needed in local history research.

– Ted’s expert on the digital platforms that will become the primary means of communicating, explaining and interpreting local history in the future. He has graphic design skills in addition to wordsmithing abilities. This artistic/writing combination is significant in the digital future of local history. The importance of the digital form must become part of the marrow of York County’s historical community.

For young people out there who have an interest in journalism, writing, history and research, Ted’s example is one to study and emulate.  We need new generations to come into the local history enterprise.

Also of interest:

I would just say it’s pretty neat that Ted and I – top editors in two major newsrooms in the region – can team up to as journalists and public historians.

Ted and I have been co-workers, continue as colleagues and, best of all, are good friends.


For disclosure, I served on the York County Heritage Board and chair its publications committee.

Also of interest:

Scholarly York County history journal feeds your sense of discovery.

How to submit papers for the 2015 Journal of York County Heritage.
journal2You can order the first four editions of the journal, individually or as a set at: York County Heritage Trust’s bookshop.

*Edited, 5/22/14