Gift Guide for Local History Enthusiasts

gift guide local history enthusiasts

Local historians are without a doubt some of a community’s most valuable assets. They scour the library, record important regional events, and keep citizens informed about an area’s storied past. Did we mention that many local historians do all of this for free, too? A person’s community often plays a big role in their personal story. It’s the backdrop for many of life’s most significant milestones, after all, but it also says something bigger about America, from the perspective of a region’s role in the country we know and love today.


These community members don’t do it because they have to, but because they have a special kind of passion shared only by historians. A love for chronicling a region’s individuality and quirks makes reading and recording local history one of the most rewarding hobbies or professions out there. Show your appreciation for any local history enthusiast with these thoughtful and inspiring gifts from regional organizations, small publishers, and more. These handpicked gifts are excellent for surprising historians during the holidays!


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Books, Books, and More Books

What do most local historians have in common? Their offices double as libraries, with row upon row of essential history books that inspire and aid research.

number 1

Local History Books

We’d be totally remiss if we didn’t put our collection of local history books at the top of the list! From Alabama to Wyoming, we’ve got books that tell powerful local stories from every corner of the country. These publications shine a light on a region’s particular narrative, whether it be the industry that put it on the map or the influxes that contributed to its lively cultural pockets. Any local history fan would appreciate a limited edition boxed set.


number 2Tour and Programming Books

Many historians could give a walking tour of a local cemetery or monument in their sleep, but sometimes it helps to get a fresh perspective and new ideas to keep community members and tour-goers engaged. Guides like Cemetery Tours and Programming will help local historians develop all-new programs that help engage citizens and draw new crowds. A copy of a great book will help any hyper-local tour guide perfect his or her presentation skills for guiding curious citizens through local historical sites.

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number 3Research Aids

At the end of the day, a good local historian will have several methods to hone his or her local research. New online formats and hyper-local publishers bring plenty of opportunity for discovering new facets of a region’s historical narrative. There are some tried-and-true staples that go a long way when digging up the past. Old phone books, census reports, and business directories are always useful to the historian who relies on ink-and-paper research.


number 4Bigger Picture Books

Sometimes it can serve a historian well to zoom out a little bit and explore local history from other regions. Consider giving the gift of subject-specific local books to provide inspiration on how to uncover, chronicle, and preserve an area’s unique historical niches. These books cover topics like ethnicity — for example, delving into the Chinatowns of California, or Jewish settlements in the Midwest — as well as crime, disaster, farming, sports, food, landmarks, legends, and more.


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Memberships and Subscriptions

Whether it be to a local historical association or your county’s law library, a good subscription can help a dedicated local history buff dig deeper than ever.


number 1History Organization Memberships

A membership to your state or local history organization is truly invaluable for the chronicler of the past. These groups are important because they provide comradery and companionship for historians who often work alone, typically in the form of regular meetings and social events. Of course, they also provide measurable resources for research, like quarterly or annual publications and newsletters. Give the gift of a membership to the American Association for State and Local History for something practical yet special.


number 2


An Online Records Membership

Websites like aren’t just good for building a family tree. They’re also vital to helping historians piece together components from a region’s past. The best part is that these websites are simplifying local history research like never before. Where local historians used to have to settle in at the library’s archives with dusty, old census reports and a microfilm reader, they can now do a majority of the research from home, as websites and libraries begin to digitize their archives.


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A Law Library Membership

Local and regional law libraries exist to provide historians, researchers, and legal professionals with court documents and precedent-setting cases that informed a place’s modern legal landscape. They’re also an excellent place for people who love local crime history. Generally, law libraries don’t operate in the same way that public libraries do (in other words, they’re not tax-funded or subsidized), so law organizations require a membership fee for access. A year’s membership provides unlimited access to endless archives, plus privileges like scanning, faxing, printing, and conference room use.

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number 4


A Membership to a Local Museum

Give your favorite historian the gift that keeps on giving with a museum membership. Most local museums — whether they focus on art, industry, history, or sports — provide major perks for membership-holders. Not only do members typically receive discounted admission, but they also get first-run access during new exhibitions and events, and may also receive additional opportunities to explore members-only archives and resources. Memberships will also help local history buffs connect with others in the area.


number 5A Subscription to Your Local Magazine

Historians are quick to praise past citizens and archivists who carefully stored and saved old records. But history isn’t all about the past; it’s also about recording the present so that historians of the future have something to draw from for conclusions and theories. A monthly subscription to your local or regional magazine will help any historian or history buff begin a local archive for the ages. Local history resource magazines, like the AASLH’s History News, are also a good place to start if you’re looking for an ongoing gift for the lover of state and local history.


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Archiving Tools and More

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Tools that make researching, archiving, and unearthing the past more easily always excite dedicated historians. These essentials convert old media into new media and ensure that historians uncover the most significant pieces from history.


number 1A Microfilm Machine

Those super-bulky microfilm machines that were once a staple in every local library have gotten a serious upgrade in recent years. Wolverine makes a High-Definition Film-to-Digital Converter that’s equipped with a high-definition screen that displays 35-millimeter, 110, 127, 126, and APS film in just three seconds of scanning. With new technology, your favorite history buff won’t even have to leave their home to make all-new discoveries from that dusty box of film in the attic. Older versions are just as useful. Find them at auctions, second-hand stores, and library sales.


number 2


Archival Boxes and Albums

Those who are serious about historical documentation know better than anyone that keeping old newspapers, certificates, and magazines in mint condition is an important element of the job. One of the best ways you can help your favorite historian keep his or her collection in tip-top shape is to invest in some archival photo albums and storage boxes. Free of acid, PVC, lignin, and other components that could compromise documents over time, these supplies are unlike standard storage components in helping to preserve the historian’s hard work for posterity.


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A High-Performance Scanner

One of today’s most important facets of archive safeguarding includes converting old paper resources into digital files. A good-quality scanner — particularly one made specifically for archive purposes — will help historians simplify their digitizing process while simultaneously keeping documents safe and preserved. Some of today’s most impressive archive scanners include features like transparency units to scan film. A scanner pen is also a good choice for those who want to highlight and digitize smaller portions and excerpts from books, newspapers, and magazines.


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A Digital Magnifier

You may think of a digital magnifying glass as something used by scientists, but it’s also a helpful tool for historians. Most historians spend thousands of hours a year just reading, and a lot of the time they’re forced to read hand-scrawled and miniscule text from old resources. A digital magnifying glass can help a historian take a closer look at those hard-to-read documents. These tools come in the form of traditional tabletop models and handheld styles with screens, both of which typically have digital capability to work with a PC.  


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Local Keepsakes to Cherish

spain classroom antique maps

Historians aren’t always all about the practical. Sometimes it’s the small-batch craft beer or locally-made apparel that gets them excited. After all, it’s the love of the place that keeps them going.


number 1Framed Maps

At the end of the day, local history comes down to geography. It’s the landscape and a place’s geographical position that informed much of what happened there. Framed maps double as thoughtful keepsakes and reliable resources, and are wonderful for the historian looking for unique and engaging wall art for the office or study. Most historians are quite keen on vintage maps — the more weathered, dog-eared, and battered the better — but it may be easier to get your hands on a new print from a local shop or online store. New services like Mapiful let you create hyper-specific map posters so that you can zero-in on one specific area of town.


number 2


Locally-Made Candles

The small business candle market has been booming for a long time now, but it’s become even bigger lately with small businesses producing one-of-a-kind candles that smell like a certain place. For example, a Boston-based company makes artisan candles that smell like the grass at Fenway Park and the dunes on the Cape, and Homesick Candles offers a line of hand-crafted scents inspired by every single state. To give you an idea of how creative these candle-makers are, the South Carolina candle smells like sweet tea, magnolia, and lemon!


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Apparel that Exhibits Passion

Couldn’t you picture any local history-lover sporting a T-shirt that declares him or her a history buff? Historian T-shirts are a great place to start — we love this one from Tee Shirt Palace — but your local business district will provide even more inspiration when searching for locally-flavored apparel. These days, it isn’t hard to find local screen-printers who produce one-of-a-kind gear based on a town’s spirit and history. There are also plenty of companies that produce apparel with state pride, which is perfect for the state historian.


number 4


A State or City Flag

If your town has its own iconic city flag that seems ever-present everywhere you go (we’re looking at you, Chicago and Denver!) then you’ve got a big gift-giving opportunity in your midst. If not, don’t fret! A well-made state flag is always a good backup. You can also surprise your favorite history buff with a guide on how to design and propose a flag for a township, city, or county if there isn’t already one on record. We can’t think of any better job for the well-versed historian.


Locally-Made Artwork

The thing about choosing a thoughtful keepsake for a regional historian is that it should go back to the basics — in this case, the place at hand. Explore your local art scene to find artists that produce unique paintings, drawings, and photographs that represent your community. Historians who are keen on specific landmarks or monuments would love to hang depictions of that extra-special place on the wall in their home or office.


vintage book magnifying glass


Whether you’re looking for a handmade gift for your favorite historian, history teacher, or general history buff, these fantastic ideas will ensure that your present is both meaningful and thoughtful. Make sure to explore Arcadia Publishing for more local gifts that are perfect for anyone on your list who loves a certain place.